The annual Human Rights Report was released by the State Department yesterday. I was curious, in light of the case of the German homeschooler, Melissa Busekros, the 15 year old girl who was forcibly removed from her home last month by a SWAT team of German police for the “crime” of being homeschooled, what the report would have to say about the condition of human rights in Germany.
The country report for Germany only contained the following statement with regard to homeschooling: “The legal obligation that children attend a school, confirmed by the Constitutional Court in May and the European Court of Justice in October, and the related bar on homeschooling, was a problem for some groups. Generally, state authorities have permitted such groups to establish charter‑type schools.”
“A problem for some groups” is truly an understatement of the horrific human rights violations occurring in Germany. Because of a 1938 law prohibiting homeschooling, German families who have a need or desire for an alternative education are literally being persecuted. The Busekros case is unfolding in 2007, so I can’t hold the Human Rights Report to task for this oppression, however, 2006 and previous years are rife with examples of egregious violations.
A February, 2006 letter to the U.N. Commission for Human Rights details several violations of German homeschoolers’ civil and human rights, including the following acts enforced against home educating parents by the German state: imprisonment, fines, loss of custody of children, criminal charges, children forced to school by police, and forced admission of children into a psychiatric clinic or foster home. The Busekros case is simply a continuation of a pattern of abuse.
Yes, this is current, I am not pulling stories from 1940s era Germany, as it would seem. The 1938 law enacted by the Hitler regime was an effort to control every aspect of free thought, and we all know the results, unless you’re one of the “Holocaust-never-happened” people.
And how is the modern German state justifying its position that compulsory education can not include home education? A few quotes I came across shed some light. Here’s an excerpt from a letter from the Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany, in response to inquiries on the Melissa Busekros case: “The public has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion or motivated by different world views and in integrating minorities into the population as a whole.” That doesn’t sound a whole lot different than old Germany, and I can think of an entire parallel culture that was nearly wiped out by that philosophy.
Another telling quote, from a 2005 case involving seven homeschool families in Northwest Germany, is even more insidious. Heinz Kohler, the county education director, said that “the parents’ rights to personally educate their children would prevent the children from growing up to be responsible individuals within society…” Clearly, something is going on here, because studies of homeschoolers show higher test scores, greater community involvement, and very well-rounded individuals. What Kohler and the German state meant to say is that the children will grow up to be free-thinking (horrors) responsible individuals within society.
I can understand compulsory education in that the state has a legitimate interest in an educated public, but there are many, many ways to educate, and many individual circumstances that call for an alternative education. For crying out loud, an eight year old disabled boy was forced, against his parents’ wishes, and with the threat of removal of custody, to attend the school the German officials demanded he attend (the Gerber case).
So, there are strange things going on in Germany. Prostitution is legal and widespread, while homeschooling is illegal and families are fleeing the country. And a precious young girl is still held hostage away from her family. Please visit the International Human Rights Group website for a list of high ranking German officials to contact to voice your protest and demand in the name of human rights that Melissa be released back into the custody of her parents.
As for Condoleezza Rice and the State Department, I’d ask that they take a closer look at Germany.