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September 10, 2012

Victims of “Brutal System” Look to Global Support

Mike Donnelly, HSLDA’s director of international relations, shares how you can help  “impact global educational policy in favor of home education.”

Mike Donnelly, HSLDA’s director of international relations, shares how you can help “impact global educational policy in favor of home education.” Watch the video >>

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Dudeks Convicted … Again

The story of Juergen and Rosemary Dudek is one of continuous pressure—the powerful resources of the state against a single family. Homeschooling eight children over eight years in the Federal Republic of Germany, where homeschooling is essentially illegal, the Dudeks have suffered loss after loss at the hands of trial courts and now await a ruling from the country’s supreme constitutional court.

In face of yet another loss, Mr. Dudek battles despair while seeking encouragement from his faith and his fellow homeschoolers.

“I can only feel the system is utterly inhuman, cold, brutal—run by bureaucrats who think they’re only doing their job but uphold the system at all costs,” Dudek writes in an email to Home School Legal Defense Association. “Last night was short—I could hardly sleep. I was drowning in futility with a venomous sting of injustice numbing me. Doom forecast a shadow over our family with no way out. Our begging was of no avail. I can only turn to God for strength.”

The Dudeks have been sentenced many times, including an infamous 2009 penalty of 90 days in jail for each parent. The jail term was overturned but is now pending at Germany’s supreme constitutional court. The Dudeks’ lawyer, Andreas Vogt, argues that the law is too vague to allow for a criminal conviction for homeschooling.

Mr. Dudek hopes that a planned global conference in his country might help.

“My attorney tells me that somehow this system cannot continue,” he says. “It is so wrong for families to be treated this way. Perhaps a conference will help put things in their proper perspective and convince authorities that homeschooling families should not be treated this way.”

Sweden Follows Germany’s Example

The Dudeks are not alone in their struggle for freedom. Just a few hundred miles across the North Sea, Swedish homeschoolers face a similar deteriorating legal situation. After years of fighting in courts and losing—just as the Dudeks have—Jonas Himmelstrand, the president of the Swedish national homeschooling association, ROHUS, is now in exile in neighboring Finland where he continues the battle for his family and many others.

“Home education is not only the world’s fastest growing form of schooling, it is also one of the most urgent human rights issues in the democratic world today. The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights makes it all very clear in article 26.3: Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children,” says Himmelstrand. “But not all countries respect this right equally.”

Himmelstrand says the time has come for a global conversation on the issue of home education.

“I chair a board of homeschool leaders from all over the world to organize the first-ever global home education conference in Berlin this November,” he says. “The board is made up of 10 homeschool leaders representing eight countries and five continents. We hope for positive change in attitudes towards parents who home educate. But we can’t do it alone.”

“The unfortunate trend … is to put the state in a position superior to parents.”

Mike Farris
HSLDA Founder, international law expert

Global Impact

By all accounts, homeschooling is a minority proposition, especially in Europe. Small in the extreme and looked down upon in countries where the state is exerting increasing control over education, how can what is a social movement, acknowledged as such by those sociologists who study it, hope to grow under such conditions?

In some places, like Germany and Sweden, homeschooling is essentially illegal—even persecuted. Remember in 2010, a German homeschooling family received political asylum from a United States federal immigration judge? And Sweden’s “state-napping” of 7-year-old Dominic Johansson from an airplane in 2009 has been pointed to by many as atrocious—especially now that Dominic has been held by Swedish social services for over three years with virtually no contact with his parents. Under such pressure Swedish homeschoolers are increasingly following the path of German homeschoolers who have gone into exile. But Himmelstrand and the other organizers of November’s global home education conference in Berlin hope that, by taking a message grounded in human rights to the center of Europe, things may change.

Endorsed by the German Friedrich Naumann foundation and sponsored by American and other home education support organizations such as Classical Conversations, Clonlara School, and Home School Legal Defense Association, the global home education conference is being funded by sponsorships and donations. The endorsement list of some 60 other national but often fledgling homeschooling organizations shows that there is interest in a global dialogue over the issue.

Conference Seeks Broad Support

Michael Donnelly, attorney and director for international relations at the HSLDA, is secretary of the organizing committee.

“We are reaching out to parents, politicians, policy makers, and professors to come and discuss the obstacles and opportunities facing homeschoolers around the world,” Donnelly says. “We welcome all regardless of motivation or methodology. Our vision is to have an impact on global educational policy in favor of home education.”

The conference website says that “the GHEC 2012 will attempt to present key points of the global home education movement by presenting the scientific and legal evidence to policymakers that shows that home education is effective and contributes positively to a democratic society. It is our aim to support home education in becoming globally recognized as the valid form of education that it truly is.”

Along with high-level European political leaders, policy makers, and academics, international human rights attorney Michael Farris (also a founder of HSLDA and Patrick Henry College and president of Parental will be a keynote speaker at the conference. Farris notes that international pressures are mounting against families.

“Although international human rights doctrine clearly recognizes the prior right of parents to decide how their children are educated, governments are imposing increasingly restrictive compulsory attendance policies on parents—effectively gutting this principle,” Farris says. “The unfortunate trend in recent decades with some UN treaties is to put the state in a position superior to parents in making decisions about their children. This should not be. A global home education conference will advance an important discussion about education and human rights.”

American Homeschoolers—Please Help!

Donnelly stresses the importance of American homeschoolers supporting this international outreach.

“American homeschoolers enjoy great freedom to homeschool. By supporting the GHEC 2012 conference, we can give hope to our beleaguered friends abroad and also strengthen arguments in favor of home education everywhere,” Donnelly urges. “We should not sit by and watch other nations persecute their citizens over what should be a protected and fundamental human right. I’m asking all of our friends to get involved by supporting this conference somehow.”