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June 20, 2017

HSLDA to Brazil’s Top Court: Legalize Homeschooling

Home School Legal Defense Association recently weighed in on a Brazilian high court case that could profoundly affect the future of homeschooling in South America’s most populous country.

At the invitation of a national Brazilian education official, HSLDA Director of Global Outreach Mike Donnelly submitted a brief to the supreme court explaining why Brazil should recognize home education as a valid and effective means of schooling.

The case began more than a year ago when a homeschooling family was charged with truancy. It has been working its way through the Brazilian legal system ever since.

A decision could come at any time. When it does, says Donnelly, “it will be very influential not only in Latin America but around the world.”

Let Parents Teach

Because homeschooling is not explicitly recognized by Brazil’s federal education laws, this case is especially significant.

Donnelly says the Brazilian constitution acknowledges that parents bear a joint responsibility with the state for ensuring their children are educated. But a court decision clearly in favor of homeschooling would go a long way toward legitimizing the educational option in the eyes of state educators and prosecutors.

In fact, one reason Donnelly was eager to offer his opinion to the court was to counter the arguments of 18 prosecutors who filed a brief denouncing home education.

The prosecutors cite decisions by courts in Germany and the European Court of Human Rights—including the infamous Konrad case—claiming that homeschooling isolates children and fosters the development of counter-cultural movements known as “parallel societies.”

HSLDA’s brief soundly refutes these claims. “We dismantle the German court’s reasoning and the German ban on homeschooling,” says Donnelly, summarizing his arguments. “We encourage Brazil to exhibit leadership and recognize the human right to homeschool.”

The Law of the Land

Donnelly’s brief begins with a basic legal argument: As a party to numerous international protocols recognizing the right of parents to direct the education of their children, Brazil is obligated to protect homeschooling.

As for European cases that upheld restrictions on homeschooling, Donnelly argues that these were based on stereotypes that ignore evidence showing homeschool students are indeed engaged in their communities.

“Research studies and anecdotal experience in the United States demonstrate how homeschooled students are well-integrated and productive members in society,” he writes.

Finally, Donnelly points out that Brazil can ensure that its own interests in educating children are fulfilled without resorting to draconian measures such as banning homeschooling. It could, for instance, establish guidelines or minimum standards for all forms of education.

Although there is no way to predict how the high court will rule, “we are optimistic,” says Donnelly. “Many Brazilian homeschooling families said our opinion was of extreme value and would have a lot of weight in court. They were very grateful for HSLDA’s involvement.”

Donnelly’s work on the brief coincided with a major personal achievement—wrapping up an LLM degree in international law from the London School of Economics. As it happened, he said, his studies were instrumental in enabling him to craft an argument for homeschooling based on principles the international community is most likely to resonate with and respect.

Read the brief in Portuguese >>

Read the brief in English >>