Parents losing custody for homeschooling children
A German couple already being threatened with jail time because they have been homeschooling their children say their nation has taken a turn for the worse, with a new federal law that gives family courts the authority to take custody of children “as soon as there is a suspicion of child abuse,” which is how that nation’s courts have defined homeschooling.“The new law is seen as a logical step in carving up family rights after a federal court had decided that homeschooling was an abuse of custody,” said a letter from Jurgen Dudek to officials with the U.S.-based Home School Legal Defense Association, an international advocacy organization in support of homeschooling.
It was about a year ago when WND reported a prosecutor in the German state of Hesse was seeking three-month prison terms for the Jurgen Dudek and his wife, Rosemarie, the parents of six children, even after they already had paid a series of fines.
The latest letter from the family described the new law as granting various local social services agencies vast new powers, especially the “Jugendamt” offices, which are responsible for looking into situations if there are allegations of “child abuse.”
“They have in effect been authorized to give expert evidence in court which the family judge has to follow … The withdrawal of parental custody as one of the methods for punishing ‘uncooperative’ parents thus is made even easier,” the letter said.
In recent years Germany has established a reputation for cracking down on parents who object, for reasons ranging from religious to social, to that nation’s public school indoctrination of their children.
WND has reported several times on custody battles, children being taken into custody, and families even fleeing Germany because of the situation.
Now comes the new law that, according to Dudek’s letter, has, “understandably, led to a kind of panic among the homeschool community in a country where ever since Hitler’s times it has been against the law to educate your offspring completely without the state.”
Mike Donnelly, a lawyer for the HSLDA who has worked on situations that have developed in Germany, said it’s not exactly clear how the law will affect the situation.
However, “the fact that Germany’s Federal Government would pass a law taking away due process when it comes to taking children away from their parents just because they are not attending school points to the sheer hostility of the German government towards homeschooling,” he told WND.
“The German Jugendamt system is under increasing scrutiny by the European Union as well as other international organizations because of the sheer numbers of custody cases in proportion to actual substantiated abuse and in relation to the overall population,” he said. “For homeschoolers, the Jugendamt represents the tip of the spear in the government’s persecution of parents who simply wish to educate their children privately at home – a freedom protected by governments of virtually all free societies.”
He said as a result of the combination of last year’s German court ruling that it is an abuse of parental rights to keep children away from public schools and the new plan, “the Jugendamt is now the most powerful and frightening force in repressing homeschooling in Germany.
“Families in Germany are being put under increasing pressure to stop homeschooling or face losing custody of their children just because they homeschool – instead many families flee the country. This reprehensible behavior violates the natural rights of parents and children and must be opposed by all free societies,” he said.
Practical Homeschool Magazine has noted one of the first acts by Hitler when he moved into power was to create the governmental Ministry of Education and give it control of all schools, and school-related issues.
In 1937, the dictator said, “The Youth of today is ever the people of tomorrow. For this reason we have set before ourselves the task of inoculating our youth with the spirit of this community of the people at a very early age, at an age when human beings are still unperverted and therefore unspoiled. This Reich stands, and it is building itself up for the future, upon its youth. And this new Reich will give its youth to no one, but will itself take youth and give to youth its own education and its own upbringing.”
Dudek told the HSLDA that, “Without wanting to overdramatize things this move by the justice ministry … can be compared to Hitler’s law of empowerment … That law gave him a free hand to turn Germany into the dictatorship it has become so ‘famous’ for.”
“Homeschoolers will be among the first to feel the wrath of our quasi-GESTAPO for the young: there is an explicit paragraph in the law dealing with the Jugendamt’s duty to enforce ’schulpflicht,’ the ‘punishment’ for [homeschooling] automatically being the withdrawal of parental custody,” he wrote.
He said although some officials had not yet signed the law, it appeared unstoppable.
In his own family’s case, he must appear in court on June 18.
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 during January 2007.
Officials later declined to re-arrest after she simply fled state custody and returned to her family.
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 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. “… 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.”