Sweden Bans Home-schooling

Sweden Bans Home-schooling

Swedish Riksdag

The Kingdom of Sweden took a dramatic turn toward totalitarianism with the adoption of a sweeping new education “reform” package that essentially prohibits home schooling and forces all schools to teach the same government curriculum.

The draconian 1,500-page law — deceptively referred to by the Swedish government as “The new Education Act – for knowledge, choice and security” — was approved by Parliament last week amidst strong criticism and opposition. When it goes into effect next year, the entire educational system will be transformed, and alternative education abolished.

So-called “independent schools,” already financed and largely controlled by government, will now have to submit to the same regulatory framework as regular government schools. They will also be required to follow state-issued syllabi and curricula.

“[Religious schools] can’t make any children to pray or confess to the God, but they will still be allowed [to exist],” Education Ministry press secretary Anna Neuman told The New American in a telephone interview. Essentially, there will no longer be any difference between “private” schools and government schools, she explained. And there will be no other option.

In addition to abolishing any remaining distinctions among schools, the new education act also prohibits home schooling for religious or philosophical reasons. Home education can be allowed only in “exceptional circumstances” like extreme bullying, Neuman explained. Lawyers have said the new condition basically means never.

Regulation of home schooling was already impossibly strict in Sweden, where, as reported recently by The New American, social service workers took a seven-year-old boy from his parents because he was being educated at home — even when it was technically legal. But under the new rules, home education will be all but done away with.

“It’s a fear that [home schooling] doesn’t work appropriate[ly],” press secretary Neuman explained, though she admitted there was no report or evidence to back up the fear.

But Swedish home schoolers (and indeed, home schoolers around the world) disagree with the notion that home schooling doesn‘t work, and they have fought a valiant battle against the new ban. “[The Swedish Association of Home Education] ROHUS has vigorously, with its limited resources, worked to stop this new law since it was suggested,” ROHUS President Jonas Himmelstrand told The New American in an e-mail.

The group wrote a 228-page report for the Ministry of Education, lobbied members of Parliament, worked with the media, and tried unsuccessfully to meet with the Education Minister. “In the last week before the vote I, as the President of ROHUS, wrote one e-mail a day, each with a new argument, to all 349 members of parliament,” Himmelstrand explained. Unfortunately, the bill passed anyway.

“Basically, it seems that the 50-100 Swedish homeschooling families are too few to matter politically — human rights notwithstanding,” he said, noting that the group had tried to educate officials on the benefits of home education using solid evidence.

But the battle is not over. For one, there is a Parliamentary election coming up in September. Even though the new law is not expected to be changed much, there is hope that the draconian restriction on home schooling could be loosened if enough pressure is applied. But even if the prohibition remains in place, the fight will go on.

“The Swedish political authorities have deeply underestimated the convictions of Swedish homeschoolers,” Himmelstrand said. “Most will not accept the new law. They will respond with civil disobedience, or political exile.”

When asked about the thought of Swedish home-schooling families fleeing from government persecution (like German home schoolers granted asylum as refugees in the United States), Education Ministry spokesperson Neuman dismissed the idea. “Right now there are only about 200 children that have home schooling, so it doesn’t concern a lot of families,” she said.

But for the families involved, it’s a big deal. They plan to take the issue all the way to the Swedish Supreme Court and even the European Court of Human Rights if necessary. And there is still hope.

“The situation may be brighter than it looks, as this year long struggle has shown that there is a small, but strong and intelligent, opposition to restricting home schooling in Sweden, and that this opposition has many international friends,” said Himmelstrand.

The international friends are already getting involved, too. “We’re consulting with various organizations to determine how to move forward,” explained Mike Donnelly, the director for international relations and a staff attorney with the U.S.-based Home School Legal Defense Association. “Of course we’re disappointed that the Swedish Parliament would do this … but we’ll be supporting the home schoolers however we can,” he told The New American in a telephone interview.

In an analysis of the new law on ROHUS’ website, an even greater matter is also raised that supporters hope could become a catalyst for serious change in Sweden. “The new school law has brought into the open a much bigger issue than the question of home schooling. No democratic Government should have the possibility to abolish a human right through law. There needs to be rules to what a Government can do. In other countries this is called a constitution. Sweden lacks a true constitution and an elected Swedish Government has great freedom to do whatever it wishes,” Himmelstrand explained in the piece.

“Human rights do not have strong support in Sweden,” he added. “In Sweden it is possible for a human right to be abolished in Parliament based on prejudices and ignorance – this is exactly what we witnessed just now. This is the ultimate reason for home schooling being restricted as close to being fully illegal as can be. The worst part is that the present Swedish Government actually used this democratic weakness. It is hard to write in a civilized way what Swedish homeschoolers feel about this.”

The law has been fiercely criticized in Sweden far beyond the small community of home schoolers. Even the Swedish Supreme Court’s advisory council, which examines proposed laws, attacked the new education act with 77 pages of “devastating” criticism, saying the “exceptional circumstances” requirement for home schooling was too vague, among other problems.

Media commentators also blasted the new law on several fronts. “The new Education Act poses a threat to educational diversity,” wrote Jim Whiteford on a Swedish political news website in an article entitled ‘New school law a step backward.’ “The state will exert more and more power over the pupil, and an outdated view of knowledge learning is increasingly prioritized and systematic…. We stand in dark times.”

Whiteford said the law “reduces both the students’ and their parents’ choice, increasing state control,” adding that he hoped voters would question the welfare state at the next election. “When looking at Sweden’s constitutional laws for the defense of individual rights against state power eager pursuit, there is nothing at all,” he said. “Once upon a time someone said that the Swedish Constitution is to protect the state rather than to ensure its citizens’ rights.” And that seems to be an accurate description, to the extent that it can even be considered a “constitution” in the true sense.

Even a member of the political party sponsoring the new education act refused to support it because of the restrictions on home schooling and fears that it could be a prelude to mandatory day-care and pre-school. The opposition parties in Parliament voted against the law for several reasons. Among them: It was rushed, and the Supreme Court’s advisory council criticism was not properly taken into account.

Other changes in the new law include tougher standards for becoming a teacher, and the idea that government day-care (for children as young as one year old) should be considered “school.” The act will also give the “Swedish Schools Inspectorate” the authority to shut down educational institutions that do not bow down to the government’s rules.

Regimes that have banned home schooling in the past include the National Socialists (Nazis) in Germany, since Hitler feared it could lead to “parallel societies,” and the Soviet communist dictatorship, where government was the sole arbiter of what children would learn.

Most Western nations still allow home schooling, including other Scandinavian countries. It is to be hoped that the Swedish government will reconsider violating such a fundamental human right, lest home schoolers be forced to flee their home country in search of educational freedom.

Read more >>Sweden Bans Home-schooling, Religious Instruction

Written by Alex Newman,

Monday, 28 June 2010 21:00

HSLDA and ADF have filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of Domenic

Attorneys with Home School Legal Defense Association and Alliance Defense Fund have filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights asking it to hear the case of a 7-year-old boy seized by Swedish authorities because his parents homeschool. Read more >>

Sweden’s State-Sponsored “Kidnapping” of 7-year-old Homeschooler Approaches One Year Anniversary

A Review of the Egregious

December 2009 Court Decision

Allowing Social Services

to Keep Little Domenic in State Custody

It was one year ago today, June 25, when armed police, at the behest of Social Services of Gotland, stormed an Indian bound jetliner in Stockholm, Sweden, and forcibly removed the Johansson family. Their crime? They had briefly home schooled their only child in a land which looks upon home schooling families with contempt, and just this week passed a new education law making home schooling illegal across the Swedish landscape. This story examines the life of the Johanssons and the December 2009 Swedish Chamber Court Decision which essentially holds a family captive on the Swedish island of Gotland.

When cultures collide

Because his mother is Indian, Domenic grew up somewhat different from the average Swedish child, naturally adopting Indian ways and customs. Annie, the now 8 year-old boy’s mother, believes in a simple life where mothers raise their children by hand until school age. Therefore, Annie and her husband Christer never enrolled Domenic in Swedish day care and preschool and were repeatedly harassed by Social Services of Gotland for their choice to raise Domenic at home.
(Click photos to enlarge.)

In Sweden, it is the rare child who does not attend day care while mother rejoins the workforce.  Domenic and Annie were the exception, and not the rule. Therefore, their way of life attracted attention. Mother and child remained home with each other daily, enjoying the most natural of relationships. Yet shockingly, in the December 2009 court decision to continue holding Domenic in state custody, the fact that Domenic was never placed in day care was held against the family. According to the December 2009 court document, “…the parents have taken a risk with not letting Domenic participate in child care and schooling.” When, in the history of humanity, has it been a “risk” for a mother to raise her child at home herself?

“Lives in the shadow”

The court has clearly held Annie’s position as a foreigner in Sweden against her. You see, Annie’s native tongue is English, yet she has learned to speak and read some Swedish over time since emigrating to the country in 2001. On the other hand, Christer speaks both Swedish and English fluently, as does Domenic. Over the years, Christer has done most of the translating and speaking for Annie. Gotland Socials have interpreted Annie’s reliance upon her husband to communicate for her as a weakness, as cited in the December 2009 court document, stating, “Annie Johansson lives in the shadow of her husband.” If you moved to a foreign country with your spouse, who grew up in that country, would you not also be heavily reliant upon your spouse if you did not speak the language well? Would such a reliance make you an unfit parent?

Mother earns Masters but “lacks ability”

Annie received her BA from the University of Poona in 1994 and then her MA from the University of Pune, 1996. She also pursued additional education by earning a First Class diploma in Advertising and Public Relations, also in 1996, from the Bombay Institute of Management Studies, as well as a diploma of Distinction in Information and Systems Management from Aptech Computer Education school in 1998.  Yet, Social Services of Gotland managed to convince the Chamber Court judge that while Annie has the “will” to be a good mother, she, a multi-degreed individual, hasn’t the “ability.” The December 2009 Chamber Court decision states, “Christer Johansson and Annie Johansson have a will to act as good parents but lack ability.” Do you have a Masters degree, or perhaps just a Bachelors degree? If so, did your degree take a certain amount of knowledge, self-discipline, maturity and “ability” to obtain?

A bereaved mother’s “present state”

According to the Johanssons, in the fall of 2008 Social Services of Gotland began actively investigating and harrassing them after the family notified the local school of their intent to home school Domenic for a brief time prior to their move to India. Compulsory school age is 7 in Sweden. Domenic turned 7 in September of that year. At the time, home schooling was still legal in Sweden. In light of the pending emigration to India, the Johanssons were acting in the best interest of their son by making an educational choice which would naturally minimize disruption to his studies while they moved.

Even though home schooling was at the time legal in Sweden, many in positions of governmental authority are against the practice, as demonstrated just this week when on June 22 the Swedish Parliament approved a new Education Act making home schooling illegal in Sweden. In 2008, the Johanssons were met with resistance to their home school plans from officials at the local Gotland schools, as well as from employees Social Services. Thus, the interrogation and investigation of the Johanssons began. Because it was their legal right, the Johanssons stood their ground and home schooled Domenic through his first school age year.

By the school year’s end, the harassment from Social Services took its toll on Annie, but she persevered nonetheless. However, since Sweden has “kidnapped” her son, Annie’s health has greatly deteriorated, as noted in the December 2009 decision, “Her present state strongly affects her ability to be a parent.”

Let’s consider this in context: By December 2009, the Johansson family had been terrorized by the Social Board of Gotland for more than sixteen months; had their home swarmed and searched by armed Swedish police; had been pursued by armed police, at the request of the Social Board, to the very tip of the tarmac at an international airport; had watched helplessly as armed police stormed the jetliner upon which they were passengers; had been forcibly removed from the airplane; once back in the airport had been tricked into allowing the Socials to separate Domenic from them by stating they were simply taking him “to the room next door” only to find out minutes later that he had been wisked out of the airport and was headed back to Gotland and into forced foster care. They had endured numerous meetings with the Socials pleading for the return of their son; were lied to when told he’d be returned in three days; were accused of neglecting him because of two cavities discovered in his baby teeth, after the fact, during those three days in state custody; they’d been through three levels of court cases attempting to have their son returned to them; they’d not been allowed to see their son except for one hour every five weeks. All of this trauma perpetrated by the state, and the Chamber Court judges Annie’s fitness as a parent based upon her “present state.” How ironic that the same people who created terror and chaos in the Johansson’s lives are those who now claim that Annie is unfit to parent in her “present state.” The Swedish Social Services of Gotland have violated and torn apart a peaceful and loving family. Now they punish that family for their suffering.

Parent’s agony labeled “lack of skill” during supervised visits

The December 2009 decision indicates that Domenic and his parents do not know how to interact with each other during state-supervised visits. Specifically, the document states, “Both Christer and Annie Johansson show a lack of skill…There is a lack of dialogue and interaction from both sides.”

Since Domenic’s seizure, Annie and Christer have battled the fight of a lifetime against forces with seemingly unlimited power and resources. They are allowed to see their only child for one state-supervised hour every five weeks, and are permitted to speak with him for one state-monitored ten minute telephone call every two weeks. During these times of fleeting interaction with their son, Annie and Christer are severely restricted in what they can say and do in Domenic’s presence and they are watched constantly.

During one visit, Annie, overwhelmed by her emotions at seeing her son after such a long separation, began to cry. Instead of understanding and sympathizing with the pain Domenic, Annie and Christer were experiencing, the attending social worker threatened them, telling them if Annie cried again the visit would end immediately. Can you imagine being threatened to lose your one precious hour every five weeks with your child simply because you’ve behaved naturally, as a brokenhearted mother who is losing her child? Is it any wonder all three of them, Domenic, Annie and Christer, don’t know what to say or how to conduct themselves under the ever present microscope of an attending social worker? Yet, in the December Chamber Court decision, this family is accused of having a “lack of skill” in meeting each other under impossible conditions. Again, this family is punished for suffering created by the state.

How far must we stretch our imagination to understand the strain a parent-child relationship suffers once social services removes a child from his home? Since their separation, Domenic, Annie and Christer have suffered great turmoil and impossible adjustments. Looking forward to beginning his new life with his parents and large family in India, Domenic instead was forced to live in a stranger’s house in Sweden. At the time he would have begun school in India, he was forced to begin school in Sweden. On his 8th birthday, the heartbroken boy was denied permission to see his parents. When his first Christmas away from home arrived, he was again denied permission to visit or even talk by telephone with the parents he’s always loved and adored. Instead, Domenic was forced to celebrate his birthday and the holiday season with strangers while the social workers surrounded themselves with family, friends and loved ones.

There are other restrictions, as well. The Johanssons are not allowed to bring gifts or treats for Domenic. Christer’s elderly father and wheelchair-bound mother, Domenic’s grandparents, close and dear to him since birth, accompany the family to the state-supervised visits. Unaccountably, at times these gentle people found themselves kept out of the visiting room. No explanation or reason given.

According to the Johanssons, the family has been instructed always to smile when they see Domenic and never to talk about the separation. In essence, they are expected to act as if everything is perfectly fine when they see their son. They are not at liberty to tell Domenic that they do not agree with his living in foster care. They are not at liberty to tell him they are fighting to bring him home. Instead, according to the Johanssons, they are to interact with their son in such a manner that would obviously lead little Domenic to believe his removal from his family is perfectly acceptable to his mother and father.

We have no idea, however, what social workers are telling Domenic. If his mother and father are not allowed to speak of the separation and are not allowed to tell Domenic they are fighting for him, does that not leave Domenic to wonder what his parents are thinking? Doesn’t that leave a little boy totally confused about what has happened and at the mercy of whatever message the social workers and foster parents choose to tell him? Children often naturally blame themselves for family difficulties. If Annie and Christer are not allowed to reassure Domenic that he is loved, cherished and wanted back home, isn’t this little boy open to very serious and long-term psychological damage?  We also wonder what might be happening in Domenic’s foster life which perhaps he has been forbidden to share with his parents.

It is clear why Domenic, Annie and Christer do not know what to say or do when they see each other. This family has become nothing more than puppets on the strings of a heartless puppeteer. They’ve been threatened into doing and saying as little as possible when visiting Domenic. The question remains: what has Domenic been told or gone through which has caused him to no longer interact naturally with his parents? Why does Domenic now suffer huge gaps in his memory, as noted by his distressed parents?

National Health Care – How a man’s conscientious efforts to regain health were used against him
Sweden is a socialist country. The country’s health care is administered by the government, as opposed to private health care where patients enjoy doctor patient privacy. In a socialist system, your health record is the government’s business.

In the Domenic Johansson case, Christer’s health records from years previous were eventually used against him. After the earth quake and the family’s emigration back to Sweden, Christer suffered a major depressive episode. Yet he did the right thing. He recognized his condition and sought help from the Swedish health system. After a psychiatric evaluation, Christer received the anti-depressant medication Seroxat (also known as Paxil). Unfortunatly, this drug can have severe side effects and Christer fell victim to some of its worst, including dependency.

Once more, Christer did the right thing. He recognized his further deteriorating condition and sought help from the Swedish health system again, at which time he was offered the popular Swedish depression remedy: Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). A well informed and intelligent man, Christer already knew the dangers of ECT and turned the psychiatric clinic’s offered remedy down. Christer found he had only one choice: to wean himself off Paxil, which he succeeded in doing over several months.

Unfortunately for Christer, health records of Swedish citizens are not private. Any government agency or employee, it seems, can obtain a citizen’s records. As in countless other state child protective cases, Christer’s health records were obtained by Visby Social Services and the often conflicting diagnoses of Christer’s mental health condition in 2003 and 2004 have been used against him in 2009. In response, Christer requested a new psychiatric evaluation. Dated October 11, 2009,  the newest psychiatric evaluation documents the history of Christer’s struggles and provides a new evaluation and conclusion by Visby Adult Neuropsychiatry Department. According to the report, which was submitted in full to the Chamber Court,  Christer is said to be healthy and completely free of any mental illness or other diagnosis.

Even with this latest psychiatric evaluation demonstrating Christer’s depressive illness, as well as the severe side effects he’d suffered from the psychiatric medications are safely in the past, the court continued to insist in its December decision that Christer suffers from psychiatric illness. Surprisingly, the written decision attributes this “diagnosis” as “…according to the social services’ understanding a factor that affects Christer Johansson’s ability to care.” Evidently, the opinion of a professional psychiatrist with Visby Adult Neuropsychiatry Department holds little weight in the Chamber Court at Stockholm over an “understanding” by personnel at Social Services of Gotland.

Terrorized into submission
While Annie and Christer stood their ground against Visby Social Services of Gotland in defense of their parental rights to raise and school Domenic at home, after the boy was seized the Swedish LVU system soon had Annie and Christer terrorized into complete submission. As recorded in the December 2009 Chamber Court decision, Christer was obviously a man brought to his knees.

The Decision records Christer as agreeing to everything Social Services of Gotland demanded. The Johanssons agreed to enroll Domenic in school, to obtain all immunizations, to provide any other health and psychiatric care deemed necessary by the social board for Domenic. They even went so far as to agree with the social board that Domenic was psychologically delayed as a direct result of not attending day care, preschool and the first grade. The Johanssons were exactly where Visby Social Services wanted them: in complete submission. A Court truly concerned with the child’s wellbeing, however misguided, would here have concluded that with full cooperation from the family in every possible therapeutic suggestion, the need to remove the child should no longer exist. But this was not the aim of the Social Services.

Catch 22: cruelty at its utmost
By December 2009, six months after their precious son was ripped from them, Christer was a man willing to cooperate fully with Visby Social Services, in an effort to restore Domenic to his family. In a sworn statement before the Chamber Courts, this father agreed to follow the entire care planned devised for Domenic, with the exception that Domenic’s care be provided while he continued to live in mandatory foster care. The Johanssons were willing to do everything and anything Social Services of Gotland demanded, so they might finally have their son restored home.

The most cruel aspect of this case is boldly recorded in the December 2009 Court decision. In a Catch 22 scenario, the Johanssons lose their son if they agree to the entire LVU care plan, which includes mandatory foster care; and the Johanssons lose their son if they agree to the entire LVU care plan, with the exception of mandatory foster care. In conclusion, the court wrote, “Question is therefore if needed care can be given voluntarily. In the care plan is, among other things, said that Domenic should be placed in a foster home which Annie Johansson and Christer Johansson have not agreed to. Chamber Court can therefore state that needed consent to needed care is not present. In such a case, the Provincial Court’s decision to give Domenic care according to LVU should stand. The appeals should therefore be denied.”

In other words, the Johanssons submitted to every demand of the Social Services of Gotland. Those demands included what some would describe as a coerced court admission that they had made wrong choices for Domenic as accused by Social Services. The demands also included that the Johanssons must agree to everything in the LVU care plan, including mandatory foster care for their son. Therefore, they were damned if they submitted to all demands and damned if they did not. The maximum possible compliance was obtained from this suffering family, including denying their own natural way of life. Then, when they were in complete submission, they were denied everything.

How to understand this case?

The plain and simple facts are these: A loved, fortunate and healthy child was taken without legal process from his parents for indeterminate (and faulty) ideological reasons. His family was then punished for the trauma they had experienced, and because they did not simply acquiesce in the loss of their child. There is nothing legal, nothing logical, and nothing just in this scenario. That it could happen in a modern and supposedly democratic nation defies belief. Any free citizen of good will, in any country of the world, should be concerned when a government has the power to act in this way unhindered. This case should concern all of us. All parents, all families, and all who believe in human rights and human dignity.

Sweden’s State-Sponsored “Kidnapping” of 7-year-old Homeschooler Approaches One Year Anniversary

Please visit this website often to see what you can do to help out: http://friendsofdomenic.blogspot.com

Socials fast-track new case in Harrold-Claesson’s absence

Swedish Social Services Rush to Lock Jaws on “Kidnapped” 7-year-old after Family’s Lawyer Inexplicably Banned

Posted: 23 Jun 2010 01:24 PM PDT

Socials fast-track new case in Harrold-Claesson’s absence

The struggle continues for little Domenic Johannson, seized by police from his agonized parents because he was briefly homeschooled, stayed home with his mother as a preschooler, and was reportedly too affectionate and outgoing. Close observers of the Johansson state-sponsored “kidnapping” case believe the Visby Social Board is pushing Swedish courts to fast-track a new series of court challenges in an effort to have the cases quashed long before Ruby Harrold-Claesson wins her way back as counsel to Domenic’s parents, Annie and Christer Johansson.

Earlier this month, Swedish courts banished Harrold-Claesson from the case after Domenic’s  appointed public “defender” complained to the courts about her participation. Harrold-Claesson, president of the Nordic Committee for Human Rights, is a widely known and respected advocate for families in custody disputes with child protective services, and has won many such cases in Sweden, restoring dozens of children back to the rightful arms of loving parents. She has since filed an appeal to her court ordered removal.

Word has it the next series of law suits might be heard as early as the second week of July in Swedish courts on the island of Gotland. This new case, challenging the “keeping” of Domenic, was filed on behalf of the Johanssons by Harrold-Claesson just days before she was banished.
The previous series of cases challenged the initial “taking” of Domenic. In those series of suits, the Johanssons were “represented” by court appointed counsel, resulting in Domenic’s continued seperation from his parents. It is for this very reason Christer Johansson has dismissed the original court picked counsel and sought out the hard-hitting Harrold-Claesson to represent him.

June 25, 2010 marks the one-year anniversary of the violent seizure of the then 7-year-old child. So traumatized was Domenic by the acts of armed police on behalf of the Visby Social Services board, witnesses tell us he vomited during and shortly after the shocking scene when uniformed Swedish police stormed an India bound jetliner just moments before take off. We are told the boy’s mother, Annie, collapsed during the assault. The family was emigrating to India, Annie’s home country.

By the end of 2009, the Johanssons had lost all their court appeals challenging the “taking” of their only child. In the December 2009 Chamber Court decision, the court sites as justification the fact that Domenic was home schooled (at the time legal in Sweden), that his parents chose to delay or forgo immunizations (also legal in Sweden) and that the boy had two cavities in his baby teeth.

Annie is a native of India. She emigrated with Christer to his native country of Sweden in 2001 after an earth quake hit India and the couple lost everything they owned. At the time of the quake, Annie was pregnant with Domenic. The couple always planned to return to India where Annie’s large family resides, and were finally doing so the day Domenic was seized.

Sign the petition against the abolishment of homeschooling in Sweden

Sign the petition

against the abolishment of

homeschooling in Sweden

The Swedish parliament is supposed to vote about this bill on 21 and 22 June, 2010. A YES to this bill will not only mean the virtual abolishment of homeschooling in Sweden (the law will essentially become German), but also an end to the freedom of education for private schools.

A million of NO’s from all of us over the world is now necessary!

Please forward this link to the petition page of the Swedish HS association.
The petition page is in English.