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Education Reporter

Homeschoolers in Parts of Europe Face Heavy Restrictions
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The Swiss canton of Zurich recently outlawed homeschooling, except by parents who are registered teachers.

Before this new restriction passed, Zurich allowed families to homeschool their children as long as they submitted to inspection by local authorities twice a year.

Zurich now becomes one of several Swiss cantons that severely restrict homeschooling. Two cantons outlaw home education entirely.

Professor George Stðckli of the University of Zurich's Education Institute applauded the new restrictions, and helped to explain the logic behind them.

"Children from early on have an urge to separate themselves from their parents. One should not hinder them in this," he said. "The family alone is not enough to satisfy the social needs of the children."

At least eight families in the canton have announced they will defy this ominous intrusion of the government into both their homes and their decisions about how best to meet their own children's social needs. These families face fines of up to 5,000 francs ($4,100 USD), as well as possible citations for disobedience of official orders.

In 2002, Zurich considered a motion to require both homeschooling parents and private schools to teach "the same worldview" as that which is taught in the public schools.

The motion would also have required teachers in those settings to be certified by the state and evaluated by the canton's education board. That motion failed, but the new restriction is a move in the same direction.

European families who wish to homeschool meet a broad range of responses from regional and national governments.

Germany is the only European nation that outlaws homeschooling entirely. The law against homeschooling is one of a very few made under the Third Reich that still remain on the books.

Several German families who have resisted the ban on homeschooling have suffered serious consequences. The Brause family, of Zittau, Germany, currently seeks the restoration of full child custody after appearing in court to answer a charge of child neglect because of homeschooling.

The criminal charges were dropped, but a family court will now consider the custody question. Other parents have faced brief jail terms or large fines as a result of their attempts to homeschool their children.

Uwe and Hannelore Romeike, of Bissingen, Germany, made homeschooling history as the first family to seek political asylum in the United States over Germany's ban on homeschooling.

Officials dragged three of the Romeikes' children to school over their parents' protests in 2006, while the children were crying to be left at home. The Romeikes and their six children settled in eastern Tennessee in 2008, where they are homeschooling their children and awaiting the result of their petition for asylum.

Fritz and Marianna Konrad attempted to cite the European Convention on Human Rights in a complaint against the homeschooling ban in 2003.

That convention states: "No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions."

In response to the Konrads' arguments, a German court declared that schools represent society, and that "it was in the children's interest to become part of that society." According to the court's ruling, "the parents' right to education did not go as far as to deprive their children of that experience."

Germany's consul general Wolfgang Drautz declared that the German government "has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion."

Of one situation in which a homeschooling family was in conflict with the government, Drautz wrote that "the education authority is in conversation with the affected family in order to look for possibilities to bring the religious convictions of the family into line with the unalterable school attendance requirement."

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