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March 25, 2011

In Breakthrough, Swedish Appeals Court to Hear Homeschooling Case

After years of turning down appeals from homeschoolers in Sweden, the Kammarrätten, an administrative appeals court just below the Swedish Supreme Court, has agreed to review the homeschooling cases of the Himmelstrand and Angerstig families. This is the first time in recent years that a higher court in Sweden has decided to review a lower court’s decision denying homeschooling.

In Sweden the local municipal authorities have the first responsibility to review a homeschooling application. For many years the few homeschooling families in Sweden were permitted to homeschool without much difficulty. Recently, however, Sweden has taken an increasingly hard line on homeschooling. In June 2010, the Swedish parliament adopted a new education law that would only permit homeschooling under “exceptional circumstances.” Unfortunately, many municipalities have interpreted this to mean under “no circumstances.”

Lisa Angerstig is an American who holds a master’s degree in business and who is married to a Swede. She has homeschooled her children off and on with permission in recent years but ran into trouble most recently when the Uppsala government suddenly decided to prohibit her from homeschooling her older son. Her story has been featured internationally in the news, including The Economist magazine.

Jonas Himmelstrand is a business consultant and pro-family advocate who also serves as president of the Swedish National Homeschooling association, ROHUS. He and his wife homeschool their three children. The Himmelstrands have been repeatedly denied permission to homeschool their daughter, and currently face fines approaching $40,000. They are appealing their case to the Swedish high court.

Himmelstrand was very pleased by the news that a higher court had agreed to review cases involving homeschooling. This positive step stands in stark contrast to recent developments in Sweden that indicated a grim future for homeschoolers in the Scandinavian country.

“This is the biggest breakthrough so far!” Himmelstrand said. “The fact that the Kammarrätten takes up [our case] means that the decision of the lower court is in doubt, and that the Kammarrätten believes there is a possibility of changing the decision,” Himmelstrand told HSLDA.

“Already a number of homeschoolers have fled Sweden under pressure from authorities to send their children to school, but I don’t want to leave my homeland,” he added. “I believe I have a right to homeschool my children—the law allows it, and the Uppsala authorities have never given any good reason for denying my homeschooling—while I have given hours of evidence showing that homeschooling works and is best especially for my children.”

HSLDA Director of International Relations Michael Donnelly was pleased with the Court’s decision.

“This is a ray of hope for beleaguered Swedish homeschoolers who have suffered increasing persecution in recent years,” said Donnelly. “The possibility of review is significant, and we hope the court will carefully examine the arbitrary manner in which some Swedish municipalities have denied parents the right to homeschool. HSLDA, in partnership with the Alliance Defense Fund, will continue to provide financial, legal and moral support to Swedish homeschoolers.”

“This is an important battle,” Donnelly noted. “Sweden is viewed as a role model for family and educational policy by many developing countries. By fighting for homeschool freedom in Sweden we can help change outdated stereotypes that still exist in European countries—even where homeschooling is legal. As a signatory and often commended signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the child, our work in Sweden can help defeat bad policy decision about homeschooling.”

 Other Resources

ROHUS—The Swedish Association for Home Education