Here in Ireland, home education is still a rather rare occurence; however we count ourselves very lucky to be able to home educate our children; according to our constitutional right...some are not so lucky.
Today I received an email from HEN (Home Education Network), an Irish national homeschooling network of parents and children. There are approximately 139 families registered with HEN across the whole of the Republic of Ireland. We are being contacted to enlist help for the Sontowski family who recently moved to Ireland from Germany, so they could home educate their eight year old son. According to German law; no child may be home educated unless there is an exceptional circumstance. Even after they left their home country, this family are still being pursued by the German Authorities...this is their story. (HEN members recieved open permission to share the Sontowski's story, with the hopes of finding someone to help this family)
The Sontowski's Story
copied directly from the recieved email
On Friday, February
5, Angela Sontowski and her son Tarek officially deregistered themselves at their
Einwohnermeldeamt (local registration
office) in New Wulmstorf, so that they could move abroad, to France.
Two hours later, Frau
Richard from the Jugendamt (Department responsible for children) was at their
door, threatening the mother and forbidding her to leave Germany. Angela Sontowski was told that if she tried
to leave the country, she would lose custody of her son and a court order would
be issued to prevent them from leaving. According to Frau Richard, the registration office itself
had informed the Jugendamt of their deregistration. There is no known legal
basis for such an action.
At this point, the
Jugendamt already had no jurisdiction, according to German law, because they
can only act when a child's legal guardians are still registered and living in
the precinct that falls within the remit of that Jugendamt.
February 8 2010,
Angela Sontowski's parents handed a letter, in which Ms. Sontowski expressed
clearly that any permission she had previously given for the exchange of
information was revoked, to all the relevant authorities. At this point, Angela
Sontowski and Tarek no longer resided there and Tarek was not registered at the
Every German person
has a right to move abroad, in order to live there and continue his or her education
there, for whatever reason.
After the Jugendamt
employees and a public health doctor read the letter, which stated clearly that
Angela Sontowski did not consent to any exchange of information, the doctor and
the social worker discussed the mattr in the next room!
After receiving their
version of the letter, the school forwarded it onto the Jugendamt
After reading the
letter, the Jugendamt took the letter from the school and passed it onto the District
Court in Tostedt!
exchange of information occurred four times within a short period of time.
There was no subtle attempt to disguise this exchange. It took place openly in front of
The District Court in
Tostedt had already been informed, by word of mouth, on Friday February 5th by
the Jugendamt that a child had to be removed from a family that was making the illegal
declaration that they would be moving house at the weekend or on the Friday. Frau
Richard did not inform Judge Wegmann that the move had already occurred and
that the people in question were no longer officially resident there. Judge
Wegmann then gave the ruling, which was issued in writing on February 8
2010 and sent to the
address at which Angela Sontowski and her son had previously lived on February
10 2010. Because of
the official appearance of the letter, Angela Sontowski's husband (who is not
Tarek's biological father or legal guardian), curious to see what was in the
letter, opened it.
Judge Wegmann had
decided that the most benign measure possible, as a result of the accusations
made by the Jugendamt, was to prohibit the family from changing their place of
Let's not forget that
the move had already taken place and the mother and child had found a place to
stay in a neighbouring country and had moved their residence to this country.
According to the
Basic Law (constitution) of Germany, the judge also had no jurisdiction. Her
ruling had no legal effect, as Angela Sontowski and her son were no longer
under the remit of this court at the time that it was made.
The letter was actually
not even deliverable, as Ms Sontowski was no longer at this address.
A representative of
the president of the Regional Court in Stade commented, regarding the case, that
it was part of the independence of the judiciary, to decide whether a ruling
could be made about a family that had already moved away.
First we wondered if this meant that the
family was banned from leaving the country, as had often happened in the past,
but after further consideration, we made the following deduction: If the family
were barred from moving, does this also mean that they are not allowed to
return to Germany, as the prohibition had been announced after they had already
Four days after a
German family had left the country, an application for withdrawal of custody
was made to the court. Furthermore, the court hearing was set for February
23 2010, even though
the mother was given until February 24 2010 to respond to the first judgement, were it in
any way legally valid.
Three days after a
German family declared, in writing, that they were revoking permission for the
exchange of personal details, all sorts of personal information was exchanged
between the school, the Jugendamt, the court and the public health doctor.
Tarek is an 8-year
old boy with asthma. This diagnosis has been confirmed by doctors. He is very
prone to contracting illnesses and is thus often ill. He was attending school,
but was put back a year after he became ill. He then started attending another
school and became ill again very quickly. He was off school for long periods,
but he always had a sick note. In spite of this, his family received threats of
fines. The public health doctor was then sent out to the family. She did not
examine Tarek, but just looked briefly at him and came to the conclusion that
he had the appearance of being in full health. A move had been on the cards for
a while, but they had wanted to avoid this, so as not to tear the family apart.
Due to Tarek's health, they had now decided that it was imperative for them to
move somewhere else.
The school made no
attempts to provide individual tuition for Tarek, and the Jugendamt did not offer
them any alternatives either. The court did not follow up on its official duty
to investigate the matter, so as to first find out whether this application
might be as result of unprofessional
actions and lies on the part of the Jugendamt.
commissioner for data privacy has been informed and formal complaints about all
the civil servants involved are being submitted.
I am shocked and saddened that the German State has taken the primary right of ALL parents; to educate their own children! Where will it stop? When all our children have been removed from parental custody, so the state benefits from hoards of 'de-educated' children to fill the workplaces?
I googled German homeschooling families and found this article which shows that with a bit of help from our fellow home edcuators and the right legal advice, families such as the Sontowski's can break free of governmental hold. If anyone thinks they can help this family or put them in touch with the HSLDA, please contact email@example.com
I will be praying for the Sontowski family; that they find the help they need and will be finally able to home educate their son without fear.