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November 21, 2011

Dutch Family Victorious in Parental Rights Case

The Weijman family in Amsterdam, the Netherlands won a victory when a Dutch judge rejected a request by social services to restrict the family’s parental rights simply for their choice to homeschool. The Child Protection Council, comparable to child protection services in the United States, threatened to restrict Maria Weijman’s parental authority by means of a “supervision order” (“ondertoezichtstelling”) for her 16-year-old twin daughters.

Officials claimed that the family was in violation of Dutch education law, which states that school attendance is mandatory. Mrs. Weijman had withdrawn her daughters to homeschool them during the 2010–11 school year. It is possible for families in the Netherlands to obtain legally a religious exemption to the compulsory attendance requirement; however, this exemption is frequently denied to children who previously attended a school. The Weijmans were charged with truancy, which triggered an automatic investigation by the child welfare agency.

“A truancy charge often gives rise to a supervision order in Amsterdam,” explains Weijman. “To me, it seems like the process is a way to terrify homeschool families. Social services officials threaten parents with a supervision order and then exert pressure for a ruling on this element—even before the main trial for the education law violation occurs. This means that if the supervision order is authorized, there’s a serious possibility that it will negatively influence the court at the subsequent trial.”

The Weijmans’ trial for their alleged violation of the education law is set for November 29.

Peter van Zuidam, secretary for the Netherlands Association for Home Education (NVvTO), states that homeschool families are more prone to negative bias by social services than the average Dutch family.

“The NVvTO is vigilant in these situations,” said van Zuidam. “We advise families and their lawyers to make sure the agency workers and the judge are aware of the good results of home education. Nowadays, we even have a number of Dutch research publications available. In many cases, they alone help common sense to prevail in the court proceedings.”

Thankfully, van Zuidam also notes that juvenile judges in the Netherlands typically distinguish homeschool students from mere truants.

“After hearing arguments both for and against, the judge immediately ruled to reject a supervision order for the Weijman children,” he said. “The family’s case is truly a victory for homeschoolers in the Netherlands.”