homeschooling in Sweden and the United States

     We continue to follow the unfolding of events in Sweden concerning the abduction by the government of Domenic Johannson from his parents because he was being homeschooled.   On June 25, 2010, the Home School Legal Defense Association reported the following:

BATTLE ESCALATES OVER HOMESCHOOLED CHILD SEIZED BY SWEDISH GOVERNMENT

     On June 25, attorneys with the Home School Legal Defense Association and Alliance Defense Fund filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights asking it to hear the case of a 7-year-old boy seized by Swedish authorities because his parents homeschool.

     “We are gravely concerned about this case because of the threat it represents to other homeschooling families,” said Mike Donnelly, staff attorney for HSLDA and one of nearly 1,700 attorneys in the ADF alliance. “In response to our inquiries, Swedish authorities have cited the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child to explain and defend their actions. If the U.S. were to ever ratify this treaty, as the White House and some members of Congress desire, then this sort of thing could occur here,” he added.

     Swedish authorities forcibly removed Domenic Johansson from his parents, Christer and Annie Johansson, in June 2009 from a plane they had boarded to move to Annie’s home country of India. The officials did not have a warrant nor have they charged the Johanssons with any crime. The officials seized the child because they believe homeschooling is an inappropriate way to raise a child and insist the government should raise Domenic instead. Social services authorities have placed Domenic in foster care as well as a government school and are only allowing Christer and Annie to visit their son for one hour every five weeks.

     “Parents have the right and authority to make decisions regarding their children’s education without government interference,” said ADF Legal Counsel Roger Kiska, who is based in Europe. “A government trying to create a cookie-cutter child in its own image should not be allowed to violate this basic and fundamental human right. The refusal of Swedish authorities to respect that right has left us no choice but to take this case to the European Court of Human Rights.”

     HSLDA and ADF attorneys decided to file Johansson v. Sweden with the ECHR when the Supreme Administrative Court of Sweden refused to review a lower court’s December 2009 ruling in Johansson v. Gotland Social Services that found that the government was within its rights to seize the child. The lower court cited minor post-seizure medical concerns with Domenic as well as the provably false charges that homeschoolers do not perform well academically and are not well socialized as reasons to uphold the apparently permanent seizure of young Domenic.

*****

     We have also been following reports that the nation of Sweden has been considering banning homeschooling completely, along the lines of the nation of Germany where so many homeschoolers have been persecuted and even had to flee.  In a related item Alex Newman of The New American reported the following concerning the obviously misnamed“The new Education Act – for knowledge, choice [?–what choice?] and security”  on June 28, 2010.

Sweden Bans Home-schooling, Religious Instruction 

     The Kingdom of Sweden took a dramatic turn toward totalitarianism with the adoption of a sweeping new education “reform” package that essentially prohibits home schooling and forces all schools to teach the same government curriculum.

     The draconian 1,500-page law — deceptively referred to by the Swedish government as “The new Education Act – for knowledge, choice and security” — was approved by Parliament last week amidst strong criticism and opposition. When it goes into effect next year, the entire educational system will be transformed, and alternative education abolished.

      So-called “independent schools,” already financed and largely controlled by government, will now have to submit to the same regulatory framework as regular government schools. They will also be required to follow state-issued syllabi and curricula.

     “[Religious schools] can’t make any children to pray or confess to the God, but they will still be allowed [to exist],” Education Ministry press secretary Anna Neuman told The New American in a telephone interview. Essentially, there will no longer be any difference between “private” schools and government schools, she explained. And there will be no other option.  

     In addition to abolishing any remaining distinctions among schools, the new education act also prohibits home schooling for religious or philosophical reasons. Home education can be allowed only in “exceptional circumstances” like extreme bullying, Neuman explained. Lawyers have said the new condition basically means never. 

     Regulation of home schooling was already impossibly strict in Sweden, where, as reported recently by The New American, social service workers took a seven-year-old boy from his parents because he was being educated at home — even when it was technically legal. But under the new rules, home education will be all but done away with.

     “It’s a fear that [home schooling] doesn’t work appropriate[ly],” press secretary Neuman explained, though she admitted there was no report or evidence to back up the fear.

     But Swedish home schoolers (and indeed, home schoolers around the world) disagree with the notion that home schooling doesn‘t work, and they have fought a valiant battle against the new ban. “[The Swedish Association of Home Education] ROHUS has vigorously, with its limited resources, worked to stop this new law since it was suggested,” ROHUS President Jonas Himmelstrand told The New American in an e-mail.

     The group wrote a 228-page report for the Ministry of Education, lobbied members of Parliament, worked with the media, and tried unsuccessfully to meet with the Education Minister. “In the last week before the vote I, as the President of ROHUS, wrote one e-mail a day, each with a new argument, to all 349 members of parliament,” Himmelstrand explained. Unfortunately, the bill passed anyway.

     “Basically, it seems that the 50-100 Swedish homeschooling families are too few to matter politically — human rights notwithstanding,” he said, noting that the group had tried to educate officials on the benefits of home education using solid evidence.

     But the battle is not over. For one, there is a Parliamentary election coming up in September. Even though the new law is not expected to be changed much, there is hope that the draconian restriction on home schooling could be loosened if enough pressure is applied. But even if the prohibition remains in place, the fight will go on.

     “The Swedish political authorities have deeply underestimated the convictions of Swedish homeschoolers,” Himmelstrand said. “Most will not accept the new law. They will respond with civil disobedience, or political exile.”

     When asked about the thought of Swedish home-schooling families fleeing from government persecution (like German home schoolers granted asylum as refugees in the United States), Education Ministry spokesperson Neuman dismissed the idea. “Right now there are only about 200 children that have home schooling, so it doesn’t concern a lot of families,” she said. 

     But for the families involved, it’s a big deal. They plan to take the issue all the way to the Swedish Supreme Court and even the European Court of Human Rights if necessary. And there is still hope.

     “The situation may be brighter than it looks, as this year long struggle has shown that there is a small, but strong and intelligent, opposition to restricting home schooling in Sweden, and that this opposition has many international friends,” said Himmelstrand.

     The international friends are already getting involved, too. “We’re consulting with various organizations to determine how to move forward,” explained Mike Donnelly, the director for international relations and a staff attorney with the U.S.-based Home School Legal Defense Association. “Of course we’re disappointed that the Swedish Parliament would do this … but we’ll be supporting the home schoolers however we can,” he told The New American in a telephone interview.

     In an analysis of the new law on ROHUS’ website, an even greater matter is also raised that supporters hope could become a catalyst for serious change in Sweden. “The new school law has brought into the open a much bigger issue than the question of home schooling. No democratic Government should have the possibility to abolish a human right through law. There needs to be rules to what a Government can do. In other countries this is called a constitution. Sweden lacks a true constitution and an elected Swedish Government has great freedom to do whatever it wishes,” Himmelstrand explained in the piece.

     “Human rights do not have strong support in Sweden,” he added. “In Sweden it is possible for a human right to be abolished in Parliament based on prejudices and ignorance – this is exactly what we witnessed just now. This is the ultimate reason for home schooling being restricted as close to being fully illegal as can be. The worst part is that the present Swedish Government actually used this democratic weakness. It is hard to write in a civilized way what Swedish homeschoolers feel about this.”

     The law has been fiercely criticized in Sweden far beyond the small community of home schoolers. Even the Swedish Supreme Court’s advisory council, which examines proposed laws, attacked the new education act with 77 pages of “devastating” criticism, saying the “exceptional circumstances” requirement for home schooling was too vague, among other problems.

     Media commentators also blasted the new law on several fronts. “The new Education Act poses a threat to educational diversity,” wrote Jim Whiteford on a Swedish political news website in an article entitled ‘New school law a step backward.’ “The state will exert more and more power over the pupil, and an outdated view of knowledge learning is increasingly prioritized and systematic…. We stand in dark times.”

     Whiteford said the law “reduces both the students’ and their parents’ choice, increasing state control,” adding that he hoped voters would question the welfare state at the next election. “When looking at Sweden’s constitutional laws for the defense of individual rights against state power eager pursuit, there is nothing at all,” he said. “Once upon a time someone said that the Swedish Constitution is to protect the state rather than to ensure its citizens’ rights.” And that seems to be an accurate description, to the extent that it can even be considered a “constitution” in the true sense. 

     Even a member of the political party sponsoring the new education act refused to support it because of the restrictions on home schooling and fears that it could be a prelude to mandatory day-care and pre-school. The opposition parties in Parliament voted against the law for several reasons. Among them: It was rushed, and the Supreme Court’s advisory council criticism was not properly taken into account.

     Other changes in the new law include tougher standards for becoming a teacher, and the idea that government day-care (for children as young as one year old) should be considered “school.” The act will also give the “Swedish Schools Inspectorate” the authority to shut down educational institutions that do not bow down to the government’s rules.    

     Regimes that have banned home schooling in the past include the National Socialists (Nazis) in Germany, since Hitler feared it could lead to “parallel societies,” and the Soviet communist dictatorship, where government was the sole arbiter of what children would learn.

     Most Western nations still allow home schooling, including other Scandinavian countries. It is to be hoped that the Swedish government will reconsider violating such a fundamental human right, lest home schoolers be forced to flee their home country in search of educational freedom.

*****

     Well, you might say, that is Sweden; this is the United States and that could never happen here.  Well, think again.  In another item fromJune 24, 2010, that is not really related to the ones above but in another sense is related,  HSLDA’s Director of Federal Relations William A. Estrada and Congressional Action Program Director Melanie Palazzo report about Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan’s belief in using International Law.  If we have more justices and judges like Kagan, they could well start looking to places like Sweden and Germany in rulings that relate to homeschooling.  Scary thought, isn’t it?

Will Elena Kagan use International Law as Supreme Court Justice?

     This past April, U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced his retirement. Stevens was appointed by President Ford in 1975. President Obama has since nominated Elena Kagan, current Solicitor General, to replace Stevens on the bench.

     It is expected that the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will begin confirmation hearings on Elena Kagan sometime the week of June 28. HSLDA is concerned by some of Kagan’s past writings regarding international law, and its use by U.S. judges.

     When Kagan was the dean of Harvard Law School, one of her chief accomplishments was requiring students to take classes in international law during their first year of law school. The reasoning behind this change was revealed in a memo to the Harvard Law School faculty written in 2006 by Dean Kagan and other professors:

     Coursework in this area (International/comparative law) should become part of the first year program because, from the start, students should learn to locate what they are learning about public and private law in the United States within the context of a larger universe—global networks of economic regulation and private ordering, public systems created through multilateral relations among states, and different and widely varying legal cultures and systems. Specifically, we recommend the development of three foundation courses, each of which would satisfy the requirement, and each of which represents a door into the global sphere that students will use as context for U.S. law.

     When Harvard Law School added international law as a required course, U.S. Constitutional Law became an elective class. This move—and the quote above—seems to demonstrate that Kagan believes courts should look to international law and the laws and precedents of other countries as the lens to use in examining our own Constitution and founding legal documents.

     HSLDA believes that this philosophy will come in direct conflict with a Supreme Court justice’s role. Judges should not look to international law and the decisions of foreign nations in order to interpret the U.S. Constitution and apply it to disputes today.

     As the Senate begins Kagan’s confirmation hearings, senators need to ask about her views on this important issue. Senator Chuck Grassley (IA) recently explained, “It’s our duty to ensure that the SCOTUS [Supreme Court of the United States] candidate understands the proper role of the Supreme Court in our system of government and will be true to the Constitution and the laws as written.”

     How would use of international law hurt homeschoolers?
     The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) are two United Nations treaties that have been signed by the United States, but have not been ratified by the Senate. These are dangerous treaties because they would severely restrict parental rights and homeschooling. If the CRC were to be ratified by the Senate, the government would have the ability to override every decision made by parents by asserting the parents were not acting in the best interest of the child. The United States is one of the few countries in the world that have not ratified these treaties.

     Although the U.S. Senate has not ratified these treaties, we are very concerned that U.S. Supreme Court justices may attempt to incorporate these treaties into their decisions as customary international law. It would be perilous to parental rights to have a justice on the court who values foreign treaties above the U.S. Constitution because whenever a justice uses an unratified treaty in a Supreme Court decision, the treaty becomes precedent—a precedent lower courts can use.

     We have strong concerns that based on Kagan’s past writings and work, she believes that judges should use international law and treaties in their decisions. If you share these concerns, we encourage you to call your two U.S. senators and ask them to question Kagan during her confirmation hearings about the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, and what role she believes international law should play in supreme court decisions.

Advertisements

Good Reading

     The mailman has been busy at our house the last couple of days.  The May/June, 2010, issue of The Home School Court Report from HSLDA ( www.hslda.org ) arrived with a feature article on “Parental Rights: God grants them, Governments secure them” by Chairman Mike Farris; an interesting “Doc’s Digest” article about thumb sucking and pacifier use; and an article about U. S. Representative Michele Bachmann (R. MN-6) who is a strong friend of homeschoolers and an advocate of parental rights in Washington.  In the “Across the States” section, our local fight against a daytime curfew here in Salem, IL, is chronicled by Scott Woodruff.

     Also, the July/August, 2010, issue of Home School Enrichment ( www.HomeSchoolEnrichment.com ) has arrived.  I have not had time to look through it yet, but the cover identifies articles on “Who Needs the Arts?  Why Christians should be creating the world’s greatest art,” “How to Survive a Learning Plateau: Afraid your child might be stuck?”, “Schedule Your School Year,” “Managing the Family Budget: Spiritual and Practical Principles,” and “Raising Entrepreneurs: Should a business venture be in your child’s future?”

     And the July/August, 2010, issue of No Greater Joy ( www.nogreaterjoy.org ) from Michael and Debbie Pearl and family, came with an article by Michael Pearl entitled “When the Worst Happens.”

homeschool mom running for U.S. Senate in Nevada

     Gary Davis reported the following on Home School Buzz ( http://homeschoolbuzz.com ):

Homeschooling Pioneer takes on Harry Reid

     National Review Online has a piece about Sharron Angle – a homeschooling pioneer from Nevada that’s the GOP candidate for senate. There’s a lot about her homeschooling roots and struggle for parental rights that first thrust her into politics. She started homeschooling after her son “failed Kindergarten”:

     “After he failed kindergarten, I put him back in for that second year and he was completely demoralized,” Angle explains. “What I had was a six-year-old dropout. I knew that I needed to do something different for this kid, to kind of put him back on his wheels and get him started again. I decided to homeschool him.”

     As other parents joined her in homeschooling, they finally ran up against a flexible interpretation of Nevada homeschool law.

     “A judge said, ‘I know it’s the law that you can homeschool in Nevada, but the law should be that you can’t, unless you live more than 50 miles away from the nearest school,’” Angle says, shaking her head at the memory. “At that point, I realized that the government had interfered with my family. It was kind of like a mother bear and her cubs: Don’t get between me and my cubs, or you’ve got trouble.”

     Read more…   All about Sharron Angle
The background of the woman who’s taking on Harry Reid.

http://article.nationalreview.com/436447/all-about-sharron-angle/robert-costa

should homeschoolers be concerned about Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court?

     I realize that not all homeschoolers are political conservatives, but I would hope that all of us are united in our support of homeschool freedoms.  Given the persecution of homeschoolers in Germany and Sweden, and proposed crackdowns on homeschooling in the United Kingdom and Australia, all under the auspices of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, I should think that all homeschoolers would be concerned about the recent nomination of Elena Kagan to the United States Supreme Court given the information below from World Net Daily.

WorldNetDailyHomeschoolers alarmed by Kagan nomination
Push for international law worries parents-rights group

By Drew Zahn, WorldNetDaily (Posted: June 25, 2010)

         Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan’s press for considering international law as “the context” for interpreting U.S. law has incited worries her appointment could pave the way for world treaties that threaten both parental rights and homeschooling in the United States.

     A statement from the Homeschooling Legal Defense Association points to Kagan’s decision as dean of Harvard Law School to require first-year students to study international law:

     “From the start, students should learn to locate what they are learning about public and private law in the United States within the context of a larger universe,” reads a letter from Kagan and Harvard’s Curricular Innovations Committee advocating the requirement. “Specifically, we recommend the development of three foundation courses … each of which represents a door into the global sphere that students will use as context for U.S. law.”

     The HSLDA argues Kagan’s actions and words demonstrate a belief that the U.S. Constitution needs to be examined through a “lens” of international opinion.

     “HSLDA believes that this philosophy will come in direct conflict with a Supreme Court justice’s role,” the statement reads. “Judges should not look to international law and the decisions of foreign nations in order to interpret the U.S. Constitution and apply it to disputes today.”

     Specifically, the HSLDA is concerned Kagan may push the Supreme Court to consider a pair of United Nations treaties – the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women – as relevant to cases in the U.S.

     “These are dangerous treaties because they would severely restrict parental rights and homeschooling,” the HSLDA contends. “If the CRC were to be ratified by the Senate, the government would have the ability to override every decision made by parents by asserting the parents were not acting in the best interest of the child. The United States is one of the few countries in the world that have not ratified these treaties.”

     “Although the U.S. Senate has not ratified these treaties,” the HSLDA continues, “we are very concerned that U.S. Supreme Court justices may attempt to incorporate these treaties into their decisions as customary international law. It would be perilous to parental rights to have a justice on the court who values foreign treaties above the U.S. Constitution because whenever a justice uses an unratified treaty in a Supreme Court decision, the treaty becomes precedent – a precedent lower courts can use.”

     Kagan’s views on international law have also drawn criticism from The Heritage Foundation, a research and educational institution that advocates limited government and individual freedom.

     “These questions about the Constitution and international law are particularly pertinent to consideration of the Kagan nomination,” writes Jeremy A. Rabkin, professor of law at George Mason University School of Law in an extensive Heritage Foundation report. “To begin with, there is her endorsement of the Harvard policy requiring the study of international law while maintaining the lack of any requirement for the study of constitutional law. She cannot claim lack of experience with relevant materials, if she is asked [in confirmation hearings] why (or to what extent) she thinks international law is more important to training future lawyers than American constitutional law. Her answers to such questions should be quite instructive.”

     Prof. Rabkin’s report also points out Kagan’s choice of Chief Justice Aharon Barak of the Israel Supreme Court as her “judicial hero,” calling him “the judge who has best advanced democracy, human rights, the rule of law and justice.”

     “Justice Barak was certainly a jurist of remarkable confidence – he makes activist judges in America look timid by comparison,” objects Rabkin. “He was known for filling gaps by invoking standards from other countries – so much so that he made it a practice to hire at least one clerk each year from a foreign country (that is, a clerk whose legal training had been acquired in a foreign country rather than in Israel). … Senators should ask Elena Kagan, which practices of Chief Justice Barak does she think American judges would do well to emulate?”

     Both the HSLDA and the Heritage Foundation are encouraging concerned citizens to contact their senators to demand Kagan be questioned about the role of international law in affecting Supreme Court decisions.

Just one more (sad) reason to homeschool

     My friend Dave Pratte, who is the father of three homeschool graduates, shared the following information:

     Below are excerpts from a Family Research Council article showing that a
school board in Massachusetts has determined to give condoms to all
students beginning in first grace, and parents cannot opt their children
out!

<quote>

With Liberty and Prophylactics for All!

     A tiny town on Cape Cod has taken one thing off its back-to-school list:
parental involvement. To the astonishment of most every media outlet in
America, the Provincetown school board voted unanimously to pass out
condoms to all students–starting with first graders. Under
Massachusetts law, individual school districts are allowed to make their
own policies about sex education. But in the first grade? Six-year-olds
are usually worried about catching cooties–not Chlamydia! As if that
weren’t outrageous enough, school leaders won’t allow parents to
opt-out. The rule specifically states that Provincetown will not honor
requests from moms and dads who want to keep their kids out of the
distribution program. In fact, some board members argued that the new
policy didn’t go far enough. Committee member Shannon Patrick actually
complained that students can’t have private access to the stash of
condoms. “I don’t like that students can’t be discreet about this,” she
told reporters. “They have to go and ask for it. I’d rather them not
have the conversation.” I suppose she would prefer baskets of free birth
control at the elementary school doors?

     Regardless of how liberal the community may be, it boggles my mind that
these activists are getting away with openly defying a family’s
authority. In district after district, schools are creeping in and
substituting their judgment for that of parents’. It’s all part of the
Left’s broader strategy to sexualize children and break down inhibitions
so that they become the next generation of Planned Parenthood clients.
Beth Singer, the Provincetown superintendent tried to argue, “They are
children. They often act without information–on assumption, things
they’ve heard… I think information is always important for kids.”

     She’s right. Information is important–from parents. In most schools,
kids can’t even take a Tylenol without their mom’s or dad’s permission,
but now it’s okay to encourage six-year-olds to have sex without ever
calling home? On matters that directly affect a child’s health, it is
imperative that families are central in the decision-making process.
Even parents who are supportive of condoms for older children should be
warned that research shows they aren’t effective. Greater access to
contraception doesn’t reduce teen pregnancies or abortion. David Paton,
who has authored four major studies in this area, went so far as to say
that “It is clear that providing more family planning… has actually
led to an increase [in contraception rates]… It appears that if people
have access to family planning advice, they think they automatically
have a lower risk of pregnancy.”

Homeschooler required to get GED

     Illinois, where we live, is a very good state in which to homeschool.  Court decisions recognize homeschoolings as private schools, and there are no homeschooling laws or regulations requiring notification, approval, testing, or anything like that.  However, this does not mean that there are no problems for homeschoolers in the state.

     On June 11, 2010, in an item entitled “Get GED or Get Fired,” the Home School Legal Defense Association reported the following.

     A recent homeschool grad was told to get a GED or get fired from her library job.

     Tina (name changed to protect her privacy) worked part time in a local library during the last year of her high school education. Tina’s parents felt very good about her working there, and she was well-liked.

     But after she finished high school, turned 18, and transitioned from part time to full time, she was told that since she was homeschooled, she must get a GED or she would lose her job. Members of HSLDA, Tina’s parents contacted us, and we provided guidance. Her parents knew they were fighting not only for Tina, but for others in a similar situation who might come after her.

     Tina’s Dad then met with the library board. He insisted that Tina should not be required to get a GED since she already had a diploma. He suggested that if the board really wanted to focus on the actual qualifications of applicants, they should develop a test that measured skills that would actually be used on the job. The board didn’t sound interested, but he made his point.

     A friend who came with him then asked the board, “You want to follow the law, don’t you?” Confrontational comments from board members tapered off notably after that.

     The next day Tina was told that she could keep her job without getting a GED, and that she would receive back pay to the time when she should have received the same wage as other high school graduates.

     (Thank you, HSLDA, for being there for us!)

just for your information

     On June 21, 2010, in an item headlined, “Home Depot exposes children to homosexuality in celebrated style: Home Depot is a willing participant in exposing children to unhealthy and risky homosexual activities,” the American Family Association reported the following.

     According to the 2010 Southern Maine Pride website, Home Depot signed on as a major sponsor of its 2010 “Gay Pride” events. But simply financing and marching in the parade wasn’t enough for the big box chain.

     Home Depot also signed on as a “festival” vendor, conducting Kid’s Craft Workshops for children in the midst of loud and boisterous homosexual activities.

     To this end, Home Depot is basically encouraging the attendance of children at events which openly expose them to transvestites, cross-dressers, and homosexual activists.

     Unfortunately, Home Depot’s participation in the Southern Maine Pride Festival doesn’t stand alone. It has also sponsored and participated in the 2010 “Boston Gay Pride” parade.

     These homosexual pride events have a long track record for offensive public displays of homosexual conduct. Obviously, Home Depot is OK with the idea of exposing children to an unhealthy and risky environment. So much so, it is willing to also celebrate it by participating in its promotion, as demonstrated in these photos from the 2010 Maine and Boston events.

     NOTE:  I’m not necessarily suggestion that anyone do anything as a result of this information, but I thought that people might like to know.  I, for one, don’t plan to do any shopping soon at Home Depot.