Many homeschoolers in the United States have been following the saga of Swedish couple, Christer and Annie Johansson, whose 7-year-old son, Dominic, was literally yanked off a plane and taken into custody by the state last year. You can learn more about the original incident from the following article: http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=109334 .
Recently, Mary Pride, publisher of Practical Homeschooling magazine, made some comments on this in the May 2010 issue of Home-School News ( www.home-school.com ). The Johanssons were homeschooling their son (which is still legal in Sweden) for a short period prior to moving to India, Annie’s native country. They followed all the rules, notifying the local school of their plans, and requesting curriculum for their son. Apparently, after initially agreeing to do so, the principal changed his mind once some local people objected. Eventually this escalated to a court battle, with the parents fined each day Dominic did not attend school. They felt they were on safe ground according to their rights under Swedish law, so stood firm. That’s where the situation rested, until the police “stormed the plane” one minute before take-off and grabbed Dominic away from his parents. They have only been allowed to see him for brief periods once every five weeks since then. It’s not just the Johanssons, either. Some Swedish authorities have been cracking down on other homeschool families.
In fact, the Swedish government is apparently considering making homeschooling illegal, as it is in Germany. Home School Legal Defense Association emailed a letter by Michael P. Donnelly to members of the Swedish Parliament which contained the following. It has come to our attention that many Swedish families would like to homeschool their children. While many have been allowed to do so, there is increasing repression of these families through court proceedings. We are also informed that the Swedish Parliament is considering changes to the current school law that would allow home education only in “exceptional circumstances” and make it possible for homeschooling families to face criminal sanctions.
We wish to point out that Sweden’s behavior in repressing home education and in considering laws that would severely restrict, if not entirely eliminate home education, is similar to behavior for which Germany has been criticized. In fact, the United States of America has granted political asylum to a German family who fled persecution because of their desire to homeschool their children. This persecution took the form of fines and other threats based solely on the fact that they homeschooled their children. If Sweden adopts this strict law, as recommended in Chapter 24, Paragraph 23 of the proposed new Swedish school law, it appears likely that the same circumstances that currently exist in Germany would appear in Sweden, forcing many Swedish citizens who wish to homeschool to flee their home country. It is our understanding that some Swedish families have already chosen to flee because of harassment from local school authorities who arbitrarily deny them their right to teach their own children.
While we understand that nations have their own culture and laws, Sweden is a country based on Western notions of justice and liberty. In addition, Sweden often points to its positive record on human rights. Yet as United States Federal Immigration Judge Lawrence Burman wrote in his opinion granting the German Romeike family political asylum, “No country has a right to deny these basic human rights.” He refers to the right of parents to decide the best form of education for their children, which includes the right, even if regulated, to educate their own children themselves.
As you know, the Treaty of Amsterdam calls for respect for those fundamental rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. These same rights are solemnly proclaimed in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, most notably Article 6 (Right to liberty and security of person), Article 7 (Respect for private and family life), Article 10 (Freedom of thought, conscience and religion), Article 14 (Right to education), Article 20 (Equality before the law), Article 21 (Non-discrimination), Article 22 (Cultural, religious and linguistic diversity), Article 24 (Rights of the child), and Article 47 (Right to an effective remedy and a fair trial). These formative documents each indicate that homeschooling should be possible for those who choose it. Furthermore, the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights itself states in Article 26 that parents retain the right to choose the kind of education their children receive.
In his report on the German education system in 2006 United Nation’s UN Special Rapporteur Vernor Munoz writes,
[A]ccording to reports received, it is possible that, in some Länder, education is understood exclusively to mean school attendance. Even though the Special Rapporteur is a strong advocate of public, free and compulsory education, it should be noted that education may not be reduced to mere school attendance and that educational processes should be strengthened to ensure that they always and primarily serve the best interests of the child. Distance learning methods and home schooling represent valid options which could be developed in certain circumstances, bearing in mind that parents have the right to choose the appropriate type of education for their children, as stipulated in article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The promotion and development of a system of public, government-funded education should not entail the suppression of forms of education that do not require attendance at a school. In this context, the Special Rapporteur received complaints about threats to withdraw the parental rights of parents who chose home-schooling methods for their children.
The UN report notes in recommendations Section 93(g) “[T]hat the necessary measures should be adopted to ensure that the home schooling system is properly supervised by the State, thereby upholding the right of parents to employ this form of education when necessary and appropriate, bearing in mind the best interests of the child.”
Scientific research and practical experience around the world has conclusively proven that homeschooling is at least as effective as public schools both academically and in producing well-socialized and productive members of society. In many cases, homeschooling has proved more effective. There is no other country in the world that has as much experience with this form of education as the United States. With over 2 million homeschooled students (nearly 3% of the school age population), the United States’ experience has been overwhelmingly positive and demonstrates that measures to restrict home education, such as those before the parliament today are repressive and are not necessary to safeguard the State’s interest in education or in protecting children.
For more research, please read a report by the Fraser Institute of Canada. http://www.fraserinstitute.org/Commerce.Web/product_files/Homeschooling.pdf
For additional research, please also visit HSLDA’s online research. http://www.hslda.org/research/default.asp
We urge you to vote against this severe law to modify Chapter 24 Paragraph 23 in the proposed new Swedish school law. This change would essentially ban homeschooling in Sweden. In a pluralistic and democratic society such as Sweden, freedom in education must be respected. It is the recognized human right of parents to determine the best form of education for their children.
Now there is hope. In an item headlined, Cavalry arrives for beleaguered homeschool family: Top human rights expert to argue for return of abducted 7-year-old, Bob Unruh of WorldNetDaily (April 30, 2010), reported the following:
A top human rights expert who also is accomplished in Swedish law has been assigned to help a homeschool family whose 7-year-old son was taken into custody by police and has been detained by social services agents in Sweden for almost a year.
The startling assignment by Swedish courts of attorney Ruby Harrold-Claesson to the case of Christer and Annie Johansson came only days after WND reported on a campaign by the Home School Legal Defense Association for homeschoolers and others worldwide to contact Swedish authorities about the case.
The Johansson’s son, Dominic, was apprehended last year by police on a jetliner as the family awaited departure on a planned move to India, Annie’s home country. There were no charges against the family or allegations of criminal activity.
Local education officials and social workers object to the family’s choice to provide a homeschooling education for their son, even though the activity technically remains legal in Sweden.
The latest development came after a hearing between the parents and social workers over Dominic’s status was canceled. The boys parents are allowed a short visit once every five weeks.
Court officials picked a local attorney to represent the family, but Christer Johansson rejected him out of hand, and the court, in a move that surprised advocates for the family, appointed the nationally known human rights leader. Harrold-Claesson is president of the Nordic Committee for Human Rights.
“The lawyer is a real freedom fighter,” Michael Donnelly, an executive with the HSDLA, told WND. “She goes toe-to-toe over this issue. She’s a fighter for the family in Sweden.”
Donnelly said because of Harrold-Claesson’s successful activism she’s looked on with suspicion by authorities and social services agencies, which is why the appointment was surprising.
Donnelly told WND the situation in Sweden overall appears to be deteriorating for homeschooling families. He said he has just begun working on another case in which a family has been fined 20,000 Swedish kroners, about $4,500, for homeschooling a 13-year-old who, by court statements of school officials themselves, is outstanding both academically and socially.
For more information, read the entire article: http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=147501 .
Mary Pride concluded with the following information: In a bit of good news, a top human-rights campaigner has been assigned to represent the family. This occurred just a few days after Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) started campaigning on behalf of the Johanssons. If you’d like to help, first please pray for this family. Could anything be more heart-wrenching than to have your child literally ripped from your arms? Second, please go to this page ( http://www.hslda.org/hs/international/Sweden/201005060.asp ) and find out how you can contact the Swedish committee that will be convening on May 12 to discuss “what to do” with Dominic Johansson. It includes email and phone numbers for committee members.
You can read more details in the June issue of Biblical Homeschooling, a free e-mail homeschooling newsletter; to receive it, send a blank e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and then follow the instructions that will be e-mailed to you; or subscribe from the web at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/biblicalhomeschooling/ .