Brazil Supreme Court to Rule on Legality of Homeschooling
by Mike Donnelly • August 27, 2018
On August 30 the Brazilian Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in a case that will determine if homeschooling will be allowed under the South American nation’s constitution. Brazilian homeschool advocates have been preparing for what could be the most significant court decision on homeschooling in the world in the last 15 years.
As one of the world’s largest democracies, Brazil’s example will likely influence how other countries address their own growing homeschool populations. Brazil has ratified most human rights treaties, and its court routinely considers international human rights law as a necessary factor in evaluating its own domestic rights jurisprudence.
I believe that a positive outcome will help the growing global homeschool movement, especially if it shows that a nation can be part of the international human rights movement without undermining parental rights.
HSLDA’s global outreach has assisted the development of the Brazilian National Homeschool Association for the last 10 years. Their leadership has worked very hard to influence policy makers and the court to consider home education a human right.
We filed a legal opinion in the current case asking the court to reject the German and European view that home education is not a protected right. It appears the court has listened to that view, and we are optimistic about the outcome.
Alexandre Moreira is legal counsel to Brazil’s National Homeschool (ANED) as well as to the Brazilian Ministry of Human Rights. He is the author of the first book on the legal right to home education in Brazil and will appear on behalf of ANED in the upcoming court case.
“Homeschooling is a fact in Brazil—it is not going away,” Moreira said in an interview with HSLDA. “Our court appears ready to acknowledge that home education is constitutionally recognized in Brazil. This will be a tremendous victory for us in Brazil, and it would not have been possible without the encouragement and support of our friends in the United States.”
He added: “Our constitution does acknowledge a role for the state in overseeing public education. But Article 26 says that the family is an integral part of educating children. The fact that international law clearly prioritizes the rights of parents in education is also very important. Our court is aware of this, and international law is important to our judges. We expect the court to establish some guidelines or to suggest that our congress should consider some kind of regulatory scheme. In Brazil our federal government has the responsibility to oversee education.”
During a visit to Brazil earlier this year I was encouraged by my reception and by the changing attitude towards home education.
I met a variety of political figures and leading lawyers during my trip. I told them that their example will influence the rest of the world. Brazil’s court will be the most senior court to directly address home education since the German Federal Court permitted states to ban home education in 2003.
The German court’s view on homeschooling is 100 percent contrary to the principles of freedom and liberty that we cherish in the United States. The family, not the state, has the primary responsibility to decide how children are educated.
Because of the negative influence of the German example, HSLDA felt it was important to invest in encouraging homeschooling in Brazil. Twenty-six state prosecutors filed a brief in this case recommending the court take the German approach. There was no way we could stand by and let that go unanswered.
Home education has also received a boost from Brazilian advocates. Ricardo Ilene, who is the president of ANED, has been traveling across the country in recent years encouraging families who are eager to homeschool.
“There is so much demand for homeschooling in Brazil,” said Ilene. “Right now the practice is completely legal after the supreme court stayed all prosecutions in 2016. The international community’s support was instrumental in this after we held the global conference in Rio de Janeiro. The Rio Principles have been very influential to our cause.”
A Victory to Build on
Ilene and his wife homeschooled their children during a time when home education was not legal.
“We were prosecuted but won our case,” he explained. “Our children are now graduated and doing very well. We were inspired by the example of families we knew in the United States who homeschooled. Brazilian families deserve the same opportunity to homeschool, and we are excited that there is a good possibility that the court will recognize homeschooling as legitimate so that many more people can homeschool without fear of prosecution.”
Ilene said HSLDA’s support was influential.
“HSLDA has been an important partner from the beginning of our struggle,” he added. “They have encouraged us and supported us and provided legal arguments and other help. We are so grateful of the help of our friends in the United States.”
I see Brazil becoming one of the largest homeschooling populations in the world in coming years.
During my trip, I witnessed a real hunger for this option in many, many families. There are people starting curriculum companies. American homeschool companies are investing in curriculum translation. With a population of 200 million, it is very possible that there will be hundreds of thousands of children homeschooling there in the next 10-20 years. It’s been an amazing privilege to watch and to be part of helping the birth of this new movement. The global homeschooling community welcomes Brazil!
Other homeschool and education NGOs are also supporting this development.
GHEX, an organization founded in 2010 to support global homeschooling, is coordinating a global campaign to support the Brazilians.
Gerald Huebner is chairman of GHEX. He homeschooled his own children and has been involved in leading nation homeschool organizations in Canada, his home. He is a former government official from Manitoba.
“We are encouraging every national organization to sign on to our letter of support to the Brazilian homeschooling community,” he said. “What happens in Brazil matters. By recognizing the right of home education, Brazil can contribute to positive educational outcomes for children whose parents choose to home educate. Research has shown that home education outcomes are excellent, and there is no reason this should be any different in Brazil. Early evidence of families who have home educated bear this out. We call on the Brazilian Supreme Court to recognize this right and to find in favor of homeschooling in this case.”