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March 24, 2010

Home Education at Stake in Court Case

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This article originally appeared in the March 17, 2010 edition of the Swedish newspaper Världen idag.

By Eva Janzon
Världen idag

Uppsala Länsrätt (a lower court) this Tuesday handled a case about the rights of parents, in certain cases, to teach their own children instead of letting them go to school.

It was the second consecutive year that Jonas and Tamara Himmelstrand appealed the decision from Uppsala kommun (Uppsala municipality) to not let them teach their 11-year-old daughter at home.

The municipality did not state any obvious reason as to why the parents’ teaching wasn’t good enough, rather, they referred to a not-yet-adopted law which would narrow the possibilities to do so-called home education.

“We aren’t here to make laws. But there is a new law coming which is going to be even more restrictive in allowing home education. Even if it doesn't have anything to do with this case it’s good that this be known,” said Hanna Asp, the municipality’s lawyer, in the beginning of her final plea.

The daughter had been taught at home for several years when the municipality stopped it 2008. The parents appealed and got the right in the lower court. But the Kammarrätten (the next higher court) gave the municipality the right and the Regeringsrätten (the supreme administrative court) did not want to take up the case.

“Last year’s verdict was that home education was not a satisfactory alternative to school,” observed Hanna Asp, without commenting on the Himmelstrand parents’ criticism of the Kammarrätten’s verdict or the good results the girl is considered to have attained.

“The only thing that has happened now is that one year has passed and that the girl’s need for social training has increased rather than decreased.”

That the parents emphasised their daughter’s good social development, and even referred to the expert opinion specifically about their daughter from a Canadian developmental psychologist, she didn’t touch on at all. She also said that the parents’ focus during the trial was more about the principal right to home educate rather than on their daughter’s situation and development.

Actually, Tamara and Jonas Himmelstrand had spent a considerable amount of time presenting expert arguments that home education is the best alternative for sensitive children, and specifically for their own daughter.

“It’s strange that one seems to have a kind of parenthood phobia here in Sweden,” Tamara Himmelstrand finally exclaimed, adding that she felt counteracted by Uppsala kommun in her efforts to provide the best for her child.

Hanna Asp referred to the school obligation and to the duty of the court to see to it that all children get an education and argued that Jonas and Tamara Himmelstrand didn’t co-operate enough with the court.

“Given how we have been treated, I would say that we have had an extremely positive attitude,” objected Jonas Himmelstrand.

The verdict will be published in four weeks.

Note: This article was translated for HSLDA by Tamara Himmelstrand