|HOME SCHOOLING / INTERNATIONAL|
HSLDA Attorney Visits Germany, Legal Defense Organization Established
In April 2000, HSLDA attorney Christopher Klicka, his wife Tracy, and daughter Bethany flew to Germany. Chris had been invited to speak to some American military and German home school families. While the Germans were excited to have a home school conference to attend, their joy was visibly tempered by the discouragement of trying to teach their children under an oppressive legal climate.
One of the conference attendees, Johann Harder, shared a recent ordeal faced by his family. Just a few weeks before the conference, police had ransacked his house, looking for his children in order to physically escort them to public school. The police broke in through a window, overturned furniture, emptied drawers, and dumped closet contents.
Several of the children escaped through an attic window, while the others remained hidden. Police found one child and immediately escorted her to the public school. Mrs. Harder, who had just given birth a few weeks before this incident, was quite traumatized. Mr. Harder was facing imprisonment and further court action to take away their children. He asked American home schoolers to do anything possible help him.
During this same trip, a legal defense association for Germany was discussed. Support came from a public-advocacy group with approximately 1,000 members, Christians for Truth, which agreed to endorse the new association.
On June 5, 2000, HSLDA launched a nationwide alert asking American home schoolers to contact the German Embassy and to protest the criminal prosecution of the Harder family for their choice to home school. The embassy received at least 1,000 e-mails and 300-400 letters from concerned home schoolers, a significant enough number to cause the embassy to notify the German government about the outpouring of public opinion.
Meanwhile, home school leaders in Australia, Mexico, and other countries, responding to HSLDA's call for action, also alerted their members, generating calls to German embassies throughout the world. Within three weeks, the court hearing for the custody of the Harder children was inexplicably canceled. A few days later, their attorney, Frau Eckermann, received a formal notice that the case had been dismissed and the charges dropped.
Home school leaders sent us a letter of thanks for all the efforts of home schoolers around the nation:
We home schoolers here in Germany cannot offer thanks enough to HSLDA for your involvement and the involvement of thousands of home school families in response to your alert. Because of all of you, your prayers and actions, the Harders have been relieved of their heavy burden-the threat of their children being taken away from them. You being there for us, your counsel and actions throughout this whole ordeal were so helpful, needed, and encouraging. You have given us real hope.
This was an amazing development, and an answer to many prayers. However, the work is not finished: other German home schoolers remain in court.
Legal Defense Organization in Germany Established
In August 2000, German home schoolers asked HSLDA for additional assistance. We provided support and encouragement to them in establishing their own national legal defense association: Schulunterricht zu Hause (School Instruction at Home). Now German home schoolers can pool their resources to finance legal defense for families as well as ongoing negotiations with authorities to change the laws and make home schooling legal.