Friday, January 05, 2007

Court ruling against German Homeschoolers Part 1

I have received an English translation of the recent court judgement in the case of my friends, the Neubronners in Bremen. The judgement îs very long, so I'm breaking it up into smaller posts. Don't get too excited when you read the first parts, because it's just a summary of my friends' case.


In respect of the Administrative Court case
(Neubronner, plaintiffs) vs City of Bremen (defendant)
[+ names of legal representatives etc.]
the 7th Chamber of the Administrative Court of the Free City of Bremen, represented by
[names of judges] has decreed that
the plaintiffs’ case shall be rejected.
Costs shall be borne by the plaintiffs. Appeal against this judgement is permitted.
Facts of the case
The plaintiffs require the defendant to release their children from the obligation to attend
school (‘Schulpflicht’). They wish to educate (‘unterrichten’, literally ‘teach’) their children at
home according to an alternative learning concept (so-called ‘homeschooling’).
The plaintiffs are the parents / have the rights/duties to bring up (‘Erziehungsberechtigte’)
their two sons Moritz and Thomas, nine and seven years old. In June 2005 the family returned
to Bremen from the Allgäu [South Germany], where the plaintiffs had been founder members
of a group involved in starting up a free Montessori school. There, Moritz was registered at the primary school in Borchshöhe as a child required to attend school (‘schulpflichtig’). He had predominantly learned at home until that time. At the beginning of the school year 2005/2006 Thomas was enrolled at the same school, having become of an age requiring him to attend school as well. Both children attended school regularly at first, but stopped doing so after about ten days because they – the children – had expressed the wish to be taught at home. According to the plaintiffs the children developed psycho-somatic symptoms during their attendance at school, including belly and headaches, nightmares and heart complaints.

On account of this their paediatrician declared them to be ill. At this point the plaintiffs decided to permit their sons to take part in so-called ‘homeschooling’. Attempts to reach an understanding with, amongst others, the education authorities were unsuccessful, because the
authorities insisted that the aim of synchronisation of the learning at home with the school
curriculum should be to make it possible for the children gradually to take part in normal school. At the end of October / beginning of November 2005 the plaintiffs removed their children from the school, giving as reason “a move to Ireland”, and registered them at the Clonlara School in Jewett/Ireland for the school year 2005/2006. This school is an international private (correspondence) school with a special programme for pupils who are educated at home according to the requirements of the regional school authorities. The plaintiffs planned at first to spend several periods in Ireland as a family, although not to move there permanently. However, the school authorities made this a requirement in order to free the children from the obligation to attend school. This was not possible in view of, amongst other things, the economic situation of the plaintiffs. Thus they registered their sons at the Schönebeck primary school in Bremen on 08.12.2005. Since then the children have practically not gone to the school at all.

The plaintiffs have applied (? on 18.01.2006 – sentence incomplete) to the school inspectorate
to have their children released from the obligation to attend school according to paragraph 57,
section 2 of the Bremen School Statute. This application is founded upon a moral conflict as
perceived by the parents. They have an open attitude towards school, as is borne out by their
involvement in founding a Montessori school. They in no way prevent their children from attending school and have tried by means of attending classes themselves as well as talks with
the children and teachers to engender a situation in which it would be possible for the children
to decide for themselves to attend school. Attendance at school produces, according to the
parents, a state in which the children feel under negative pressure and to which they react with
psycho-somatic symptoms. Their children feel troubled by other pupils and their behaviour;
they wish to be able to learn in a self-determining manner without this scholastic environment. As parents, they cannot exercise psychological or physical pressure on their children, particularly in view of the fact that the law allows for exceptions to the obligation to attend school. Children are not to be seen as passive objects to be educated. Rather, children and their parents have the right to choose their education as they see fit. Their sons can learn better and more effectively at home than in state or recognised private schools. This is borne out by examples from other countries where homeschooling is accepted.

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