Friday, June 20, 2008

Judge: Homeschooling like driving drunk:Parents facing 3-month prison terms

An advocate for homeschooling in Germany, where the activity has been illegal since Hitler's golden days in 1938, says his nation has aligned itself with China and North Korea regarding human rights with the sentencing this week of two parents to three months in jail – for homeschooling.Joerg Grosseleumern works with an advocacy organization that is part of the Netzwork-Bildungsfreiheit, the German organization promoting in that nation the recognized European Union right of parents to determine their children's schooling."Homeschooling is a criminal offense, comparable to a trucker who repeatedly gets behind the wheel drunk," he told WND in an e-mail today. "At least this is the opinion of Chief Judge Becker, who has sentenced the Dudek family to three months imprisonment without parole."
WND had reported yesterday when word of the jail sentences, similar to those convicted of driving under the influence, came to the United States from the family.The sentences for Juergen and Rosemarie Dudek came in Germany's equivalent of a district court in the state of Hesse, according to a staff attorney for the Home School Legal Defense Association. The group, the premier homeschooling advocacy organization in the world, has been monitoring and helping in the Dudeks' case since before a federal prosecutor announced his intention more than a year ago to see the parents behind bars."Words escape me, it's unconscionable, incredible, shocking," HSLDA staff attorney Mike Donnelly told WND after he got word of the sentence. "They'll appeal of course.""With this verdict the judge maintains the ignoble tradition begun on July 6, 1938, with the signing of the Reichsschulgesetz (Reich/Imperial School Legislation) by Adolf Hitler and Reichsminister Rust," Grosseleumern wrote. "This tradition reached its high point in 2007 with the deplorable decision of the German Federal Supreme Court to legitimize revocation of parental custody rights for homeschooling."These verdicts have their origins in a common spirit of political despotism, as has twice been gleefully celebrated during the infamous period of the German dictatorship. The justifications offered for such harsh measures against families providing education in the home always present the same old stereotypes, but cannot stand up under any serious legal examination from the bench," he said.Wolfgang Drautz, consul general for the Federal Republic of Germany, has commented on the issue on a blog, noting the government "has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion."Drautz said schools teach socialization, and as WND reported, that is important, as evident in the government's response when a German family in another case wrote objecting to police officers picking their child up at home and delivering him to a public school."The minister of education does not share your attitudes toward so-called homeschooling," said a government letter in response. "... You complain about the forced school escort of primary school children by the responsible local police officers. ... In order to avoid this in future, the education authority is in conversation with the affected family in order to look for possibilities to bring the religious convictions of the family into line with the unalterable school attendance requirement."WND has reported several times on custody battles, children being taken into custody and families even fleeing Germany because of the situation.One of the higher-profile cases on which WND has reported was that of a teen who was taken by police to the psychiatric ward because she was homeschooled.The courts ruled it was appropriate for a judge to order police officers to take Melissa Busekros, 15 at the time, into custody in January 2007.
Officials later declined to re-arrest her after she turned 16. She was subject to different requirements and simply fled state custody and returned to her family.But Grosseleumern said, "To say that 'the community has a justifiable interest' to 'counteract the establishment of religious or other parallel societies motivated by a worldview, and to integrate minorities in this area' is not a legal justification, but is actually a purely political declaration. The politicization of the judiciary is a well known hallmark of dictatorship. This is completely incompatible with a constitutional state."The oft-cited motto of a 'state educational mandate; is nowhere to be found in the Grundgesetz, the German constitution," he said. "The frequently misquoted Article 7 of the constitution only places the overall system under the supervision of the state. However, the cafe and restaurant industries are also subject to supervision by the state, and yet no one has had the idea to forbid eating at home on that basis, or to speak of a 'state nutritional mandate,'" he said."Germany has isolated itself worldwide by its harshly repressive position against homeschool families. U.N. Special Representative Vernor Munoz writing in his report 'Mission on Germany' last year pointed out that 'education cannot be reduced simply to attendance at a school.' 'Distance learning and homeschooling represent . . . . valid options,'" Grosseleumern said.
"Almost all nations of the world, excepting China and North Korea, have long since reached agreements to freely allow learning in the home, empowering families to avail themselves of alternative educational methods," he said.It was just a year ago when WND reported the prosecutor, Herwig Muller, appealed a lower court's imposition of fines against the Dudeks.
The prosecutor said at the time he would demand jail sentences of three months each for the parents. Muller also said he would not permit the case to be resolved with probation for the parents.A newspaper reporter in Hesse, Harald Sagawe, said the parents previously paid fines because "they did not send their children to school, for religious reasons."He continued, "The parents, Christians who closely follow the Bible, teach their children themselves. Two years ago the court had also dealt with the Dudeks. That case, dealing with the payment of a fine, had been dropped."Judge Peter Hobbel, who imposed the fines, also criticized school officials for refusing to answer the family's request for approval of their "private school."Arno Meissner, the chief of the government's local education department, said he would enforce the mandatory school attendance law against the family, and he said he resented the judge's interference."His duty is to make a judgment when the prosecutor brings a charge and to stay out of administrative matters," Meissner said at the time. HSLDA officials estimate there are some 400 homeschool families in Germany, virtually all of them either forced into hiding or facing court actions.
As in the days of Noah...

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