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December 3, 2002

Dutch Homeschoolers Fight Compulsory Attendance Law

NVvTO Growing
The Netherlands Association for Home Education is the only active home education association in the Netherlands. It is comprised of a growing network of homeschoolers in Netherlands, Flanders (northern Belgium, where Dutch is spoken), the United Kingdom, and France. The association has over 30 members. It has also secured three experienced Dutch lawyers who are willing to help them.

It has always been somewhat difficult to homeschool in the Netherlands, but public opinion and the political moods are now changing rapidly in favor of homeschooling thanks to a number of recent TV and radio programs and newspaper articles. NVvTO treasurer, Peter van Zuidan, explained that it seems the media is virtually promoting home education. The recent harassment of homeschooling families by the child protective services (which caused at least two families to flee to Flanders where the law is much more favorable) has caused much popular indignation. The media seemingly wants to "stick up for the little guy." This has lead to a stream of interviews with homeschool families and information requests to the Netherlands Association for Home Education. The NVvTO estimates that at least 30 percent of the Dutch population has now heard about home education in a favorable light.

The Netherlands homeschoolers have expressed thanks for the work of HSLDA in the area of research that has helped them in the Netherlands. Mirah DeVris and Peter van Zuidan expressed in a letter to Chris Klicka, "HSLDA already has helped us out a lot. You made it possible for Lawrence Rudner to do his very convincing study. His research is the central item in the overview article that Henk Blok, an education scientist from the University of Amsterdam, has written (in Dutch and English) to provide us with easily understandable arguments to fight compulsory schooling law."

Homeschooling Legalities
"Furthermore, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives' resolutions on homeschooling from 1999 and 2000 that you lobbied for, help us out as well, making it clear that the evidence about home education has helped to create a consensus in the American political field."

Legally, homeschoolers are operating although not officially recognized by Dutch law. Many homeschoolers are able to obtain an exemption from compulsory education based on a loophole in the law that gives parents the right not to send their children to schools that do not teach according to their religious or moral doctrines. A precedent case from 1988 confirmed this right, and since then, home education has been possible for people who convince the authorities that they have a minority religion or moral doctrine. However, the NVvTo explains that the government still looks on these people with suspicion and assumes that children are receiving no education at all. As far as the Dutch government is concerned, only teaching that happens in officially recognized schools counts as education.

Once a child has been in school, the law states that parents do not generally have the option of changing their minds, so it is important for homeschoolers to start from the beginning.

Homeschoolers Need Your Help
The NVvTO has asked HSLDA to help them a change their compulsory school attendance law. DeVris and Zuidan say: "We would, for instance, like to see all the Parliament member provided with a range of personal letters showing the maturity of the home education phenomenon worldwide." They believe this will help in their efforts to get official recognition of homeschooling. NVvTO also believes the law presently contradict the European and U.N. Human Rights Conventions. The European Convention Protocol 1, Article 2 states: "No person shall be denied the right to education in the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching. The state shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions."

The Netherlands Association for Home Education has also stated that aside from legal assistance, their home schoolers are always looking for appropriate educational materials. They are open to receiving education materials in English.