What should have been a happy homecoming to Norway for Leif and Terese Kristiansen turned into a parent’s worst nightmare when the Barnevernet (Norway’s child welfare agency) brutally removed their son, Kai, after they started homeschooling.
The family had been living in Canada, where Terese and Kai are citizens. They returned recently to Norway in search of new opportunities.
But at the local public school, 12-year-old Kai became the victim of merciless bullying. School officials did not resolve the situation.
To protect Kai from further trauma, his parents did the responsible and loving thing: they removed him from the school and immediately began to homeschool him. By choosing to homeschool their son, the Kristiansens did what the state or public school would not do . . . keep Kai safe and provide him with a healthy learning environment.
As if being the victim of school bullying wasn’t enough, on Thursday, February 9, 12-year-old Kai was hunted down and then tackled in the snow by Barnevernet agents and police.
In a Facebook video of the incident that has already been watched over 600,000 times, Kai’s mother, Terese, looks on in terror, screaming for help as Kai is chased by the police and the Barnevernet. “My son is being stolen by Barnevernet in Norway because we want to homeschool!” Terese shouted as helpless friends and neighbors watched.
Kai can be heard screaming “No!” over and over as the police and a Barnevernet investigator attempt to subdue him and take him into custody pursuant to an order from the local authorities.
The 12-year-old was ordered into state custody because his family chose to homeschool.
This incident adds to the troublesome track record of the Barnevernet.
According to Ray Skorstad, a legal administrator and founder of Barnets Beste, an organization that assists parents who have had their children taken into custody by the Barnevernet, the seizure of Kai was a “brutal invasion of the family without sufficient justification.” Skorstad added that “the primary reason for taking the child was that he was not in school.”
HSLDA Director of Global Outreach Michael Donnelly spoke with Kai’s mother, Terese.
“We had hoped that we would be welcomed in our own home country,” she told him. “But I am living a nightmare; I can’t believe what they did to my son.”
Donnelly has previously seen the overreach of the Barnevernet through his work on behalf of the Bodinariu family, whose children were taken because Norwegian authorities said they disagreed with the Christian values of the parents.
Donnelly said that it’s especially important for the homeschool community to support families in cases such as these.
“An attack like this is an attack on homeschooling,” he said. “Parents are the ones who have the right to decide how their children are educated and what is best for them. Parents do not have to give a reason for homeschooling, but the Kristiansens were well-justified in taking their son out of school in order to keep him from being bullied.”
“Homeschooling is no justification to take a child by force,” he added. “This action was a gross violation of Kai’s human rights and his parents’ rights. We are calling on Norwegian officials to immediately return Kai to his parents. We will do whatever we can to see justice done for Kai.”
“As of right now, the family has been permitted only one weekly supervised two-hour visit with Kai. Although a court hearing is scheduled for February 15, it would be a miracle if the authorities were to immediately release Kai. Let’s pray that happens,” he concluded.
Kai’s father explained: “We repeatedly said the school is not a good fit for our son, but they did not listen. In the end, we were worried about his mental and physical health. So, in the New Year, we notified the school and decided to temporarily homeschool until we agreed on a good school to transfer to.”
Skorstad said that the family’s decision to remove their son from school is what drove the state to act. “The authorities wrote that the boy needs to be in school for socialization purposes.”
Barnevernet officials had said the family were “avoiding them,” and when the parents decided to homeschool Kai, they took custody.
The family’s Oslo-based lawyer, Trond Olsen Næss, has denied Barnevernet’s allegation, saying that the family had been in contact with the authorities, but that the agency had moved too fast.
HSLDA has launched a petition drive here. We are asking concerned people and homeschooling families all over the world to sign the petition and to contact the Norwegian Embassy in their country to demand justice for Kai and to acknowledge that homeschooling is not a legitimate reason to forcibly remove a child from a family.
Through our Homeschool Freedom Fund, HSLDA will be standing with the Kristiansen family, providing support and counsel. We are committed to following this case even to the European Court of Human rights if necessary.