It is hard to believe that within the civilized world in the 21st century we would still need to talk about actions used by the Nazi party in Germany to enforce civic conformity to the Nazi ideal. Unfortunately, this is exactly what is taking place in Germany today, and home-schoolers are the targets.
On Feb. 1 Melissa Busekros, a home-schooled 15-year-old from Bavaria, was forcibly removed from her home by a team of 15 SWAT officers. She was placed in the psychiatric wing of a Nuremberg clinic and her parents were not allowed to see her. She was deemed to be suffering from “school phobia.”
Melissa was then taken to another psychiatric institution and her parents were not informed of her location. Eventually Melissa was allowed to call her parents so they could hear her voice, but then the authorities took her to another undisclosed location.
As of this writing, Melissa is allowed a brief, once-per-week visit with her parents, at a government building, but still cannot tell them where she is being held. This ordeal is horrifying for Melissa and her parents.
Aside from the fact that this treatment should not happen to anyone, the Busekros are not a family that should have attracted any police attention. As recently as Dec. 23, the family was pictured in Erlanger Nachrichten, the local daily newspaper, as an example of a rare “model family.” It was the fact that Melissa’s parents chose home-schooling that brought down the wrath of the government.
Melissa had been attending public school but fell behind in math and Latin due to severe classroom disruptions. Her parents decided to home-school her in these subjects. Melissa continued to participate in music and sang in the choir through the public school. She took advanced courses in English and French at the local community college.
It should be noted that home-schooling is illegal in Germany, but the Busekros family hoped that the school authorities would be flexible since Melissa was no longer subject to full-time attendance requirements. The recalcitrance of German authorities can be traced back to 1938, when Adolf Hitler, fearing that parents had too much influence over their children, banned home-schooling.
This law still exists in Germany today. The German government fears the development of parallel societies and will act aggressively to stop anyone trying to move away from the state-sanctioned educational system. Melissa is just the latest example of heavy-handed state action.
Every person in the civilized world should be shocked and appalled about these events in Germany. If the German government is not held accountable for these actions, then it is likely the problem will spread. If Germany does not recognize the fundamental right of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children, then it can no longer be considered a free country. In this case, Germany could learn a lesson from the United States.
On this side of the Atlantic, at the moment, we take very different approach. The U.S. Supreme Court case Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 1925, addressed an attempt on the part of Oregon to require all children to attend a public school. In Pierce, the concerns were the same as in Germany. Oregon decided that religious schools were a threat and could produce a parallel society. Therefore, all children should be forced into public school, where all would receive the same education.
The court rightly determined that the child is not the mere creature of the state and consequently there was no compelling government reason to force children into one mode of education. The ruling recognized the fundamental right of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children.
This ruling has served the country well. While there are regular conflicts with state authorities, parental rights are still generally upheld within the court system.
The concern for the United States is that when U.S. judges look to foreign precedents to inform their decisions, parental rights could be in jeopardy. The fight for freedom is becoming globalized. What happens in other countries can find its way to our shores.
It is hoped that the German government will do the right thing and relent from pursuing parents who want to exercise their fundamental right to home-school their children in peace.
Michael Smith is the president of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He may be contacted at 540/338-5600.