Swedish Legislative History vs. the Law

I sent several emails to government ministers urging them to take action in the Dominic Johansson case (I posted the letter to this board a few weeks ago, for those who may be interested in what was said).

Today, I discovered that one minister had thoughtfully replied, which I thought was extremely courteous and professional. You might be interested in some of the things that were said, as it reveals what some representatives of the Swedish government believe your current law means. 

It sounds completely wrong to me. Most of the letter just says "It's out of my hands, the social services is doing a great job..." and educating me about Swedish law and policy regarding Social Services. I'll just post the part about homeschooling, but if someone wants to see the whole message, I'll be happy to post the rest.

The homeschooling quote:

"Since you also refer to the issue of home schooling in your letter, I also would like to mention the following. The legislative history of the current Education Act states that home schooling in isolated cases, mainly in the lower grades, might be an acceptable substitute for education if a particular external circumstance exists. Examples of such are if the child is living in sparsely populated areas or needs special care. Legal practice shows that the situation also arises when parents for other reasons, such as philosophical or religious, want to give their children education at home. In connection with the new Education Act, these rules are now being reviewed."

Ulrik Lindgren
Political Advisor to the Minister for Elderly Care and Public Health Ministry of Health and Social Affairs

This line about only in cases where a child "needs special care" or is sick is what Haninge Kommun told me when I called to express our intention to homeschool our daughter back in 2004-5. Where do people get this idea? It's not stated in the law, is it? Am I right in thinking it is just an interpretation of the law?

I'd like to write back and thank this minister for their reply, but set them straight about what the law actually says...

I really wish that I was fluent in Swedish so that I could do more to get the attention of government and the press to this important issue. It is so frustrating that they expect all of you to just quietly bow down to their "superior" judgment with regard to the education of your children. 

The Swedish people need to hear about this, because if the government can decide which education method is the one true method that will perfectly suit all children, what area of family life is next to fall under their control? Television viewing? Diet? Expression of faith? Health care? Maybe we'll have to check with our Kommun before establishing a suitable bedtime for our children, since they are the experts on parenting...

This attitude of  "It's not healthy or natural for a child to spend too much time with their parents, and it is ridiculous that a parent should think themselves qualified to teach anything of value to their own children" drives me crazy!

Well, keep up the good fight, you have my admiration and hopes for a brighter tomorrow.



I also wrote to the Minister of Social Affairs about the Dominic Johansson case. I also got a reply yesterday, also from Ulrik Lindgren, and it sounds like we got the same content, just differing in language.

I have written back to him asking what a citizen should do when the whole government and juridical system lacks the modern knowledge of home schooling. We will see if he answers.

"The legislative history" is not the law, it is only a recommendation of how the law is supposed to be interpreted. In this case, however,  the recommendation is 25 years old. It is totally out of date as regard to research and knowledge on homeschooling. It cannot therefore be used as an interpretation – something I state in every appeal, court case and discussion. The law has, of course, to be interpreted by the evidence based research, all the qualitative research and all the anecdotal evidence available today. Such an interpretation should lead to applications for home education is routinely passed in normal cases, and that home education alone can never be reason for actions by the social authorities. This message has yet to come through though.

The actual law reads like this:

The Swedish school law, chapter 10, §4 (my translation and my italics): 

A school-aged child shall be allowed to fulfil the school obligation in other ways than what is stated in this law, if it appears to be a fully satisfactory alternative to the education otherwise available to the child according to the law. Possibilities [for the authorities] to have an insight into the activities shall be provided.

Permission can be given for up to one year at a time. During this time it shall be tried how the operation turns out. Permission shall immediately be withdrawn if necessary insight into the operation is not granted, or if for other reasons it can be assumed that necessary circumstances for permission no longer exits.

The European Convention on Human Rights is fully Swedish law since 1995 and gives support to parents choices. In the first amendment protocol of the convention, in article 2 it is written:

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 in conformity with their own religions and philosophical convictions.

Please write back to the Ministry if you feel moved to. The more people who write sensible letters and mails the better. It lets them know that people are upset about this. In the long run they can never win, but the quicker a shift, the better for all of us.

All the best

Jonas Himmelstrand