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April 7, 2009

Georgia to Germany: Let Parents Homeschool!

The Georgia House of Representatives recently adopted House Resolution 850, which calls on the Federal Republic of Germany to “recognize the basic, fundamental rights of parents and allow their citizens to determine the educational upbringing of their own children.” The legislature of the Southern U.S. state also resolved that the clerk of the House is “authorized and directed to transmit an appropriate copy” of the resolution to the federal government of Germany.

This effort was spearheaded by Georgia homeschooler Tina Liedle. Mrs. Liedle is leading a homeschooled folk dance troupe on a cultural exchange tour of Germany with the intent of encouraging that nation’s homeschoolers and engaging citizens in a debate over the right to home educate.

State Representative Ed Setzler of Georgia’s 35th District joined with three other representatives in sponsoring this resolution before the Georgia House.

“We Americans enjoy broad freedom. As an Army officer, I lived in Germany and appreciated that beneath the idyllic countryside there was a culture that did not respect individual rights as we do here. I wanted to encourage Mrs. Lieldle’s outreach to Germans who are being treated harshly just because they homeschool.”

A statement of philosophy was important to Representative Setzler.

“America is founded on principles of personal liberty and that parents are responsible for the education upbringing of their children—not the government. The government exists to secure our rights. The right of parents to educate their own children is a natural right. And just as many nations have been inspired and encouraged by our American experience with democracy the idea that parents have fundamental rights and freedoms to educate and raise their children are just as important.”

Liedle’s dance group, known as the “Highländlers”, will perform all over Germany and the Netherlands from May 25 through June 25. The troupe specializes in Scottish and Bavarian folk dances. Team members hope to make people more aware of the plight of homeschoolers in Germany and to spark discussions about how to make it possible for parents to educate their children according to their conscience. The group is in the final stage of fundraising and still needs some support to make the exchange trip possible. For more information about the group and its tour visit the Highländlers’ website.

In its resolution, the Georgia House notes that many American statesmen and leaders were homeschooled. The House recognized that “Germany infringes upon the parental rights of its citizens by forcing children to attend brick-and-mortar schools…and denying parents the right to homeschool their children.” The House further recognized that “home educated students around the world have continually exhibited high standards of academic achievement and citizenship.”

The plight of German homeschoolers continues to gain international attention. The Associated Press reported on March 31 about the Romeike family, who fled Germany for East Tennessee and have applied for political asylum.

HSLDA Staff Attorney Michael Donnelly coordinates the non-profit advocacy organization’s work on behalf of persecuted homeschoolers in Germany.

“Germany sticks out in the midst of Western Europe for its harsh repression of parents,” Donnelly said. “They have this notion that homeschooling creates this parallel society, and they deem that as dangerous.”

The AP reported that Lutz Gorgens, German consul general for the Southeast United States., said he’s not familiar with the Romeikes’ specific situation but believes the claim of persecution is “far-fetched.” He defended Germany’s requirements for public education.

“For reasons deeply rooted in history and our belief that only schools properly can ensure the desired level of excellent education, we (Germany) go a little bit beyond that path which other countries have chosen,” Gorgens said.

“HSLDA has been reporting for nearly a decade about the persecution of parents who seek to provide a quality education at home for their children. Parents in Germany who seek to do this face severe recriminations from local and state school and family welfare officials,” said Mike Smith, president of HSLDA. “I’m pleased that we are able to help a family like this.”

Donnelly noted that the repercussions for homeschooling in Germany are indeed severe.

“Families have had the state take custody of their children, have been fined tens of thousands of dollars and have even been sentenced to prison. All because they have sought to educate their children at home. Scores of families have fled Germany to surrounding nations where almost universally homeschooling is either tolerated or encouraged by the law. HSLDA is committed to encouraging policy makers in Germany to confront this issue and make positive changes that respect the right of parents to direct their children's education.”

 Other Resources

Read the Georgia House Resolution >>

For more information about the Highländlers Mission trip >>

For more information about homeschooling in Germany >>