I received this press release today from Rina Groeneveld.
Robert and Rina Groeneveld, Kathy Sinnott
Thursday, 17th July 2008
European Commission to open dialogue with Germany on their hypocritical home schooling law following Irish petition
A petition on a ban on home schooling, hosted by Kathy Sinnott, MEP for Ireland South, was discussed in the European Parliament Petitions Committee this morning. Catherina Groeneveld, the petitioner and an Irish citizen married to a South African, travelled to Brussels to present her petition to the Petitions Committee and Commission.
Catherina and her family moved to Germany temporarily because of her husband’s job. She chose for linguistic and other reasons to home-school her children while in Germany. She was surprised to find that not only was home schooling illegal, home schoolers were subject to persistent harassment by local authorities.
Catherina lodged a petition with the Petitions Committee in 2007 making the case that Germany’s education policy contradicts the freedom of workers within the EU. She as an Irish citizen has a constituted right to educate her children and Germany’s refusal to accommodate her makes it hard for her family to work in Germany. This is in clear contradiction to the EU’s mobility of workers. In her presentation, the petitioner pointed out that foreigners who home school their children are subject to harassment, fines, jail sentences, removal of their children by the Jugendamt (children’s courts) and criminalisation. 15 out of the 16 German States allow exemptions but only to circus children and young people who have music careers. These exemptions do not extend to foreigners. Such families who wish to home school their children are subjected to draconian measures. Catherina points out that if her family were German citizens living in Ireland, they would be encouraged by the German authorities who would offer her the national curriculum to teach her children at home. The petitioner asked the Petitions Committee to help the German Government rectify this hypocrisy.
The Petitions Committee have been paying close attention to this petition and both the Committee and the Commission congratulated the petitioner on an impressive presentation. The Commission have decided to open a dialogue to put this issue on the agenda of their regular meetings with Germany. The Petitions Committee is already embarking on a report of abuses by the Jugendamt towards non-German parents and has decided to include this aspect in the report. German law, unlike Ireland, identifies the State as the principle authority responsible for a child’s rights not his or her parents. Germany has the highest rate of children taken into care from their parents by the State in the EU.
Kathy Sinnott, Vice President of the Petitions Committee, stated “This petition brings into question workers’ mobility. One of the guarantees of the internal market is the freedom of movement of workers in the EU. There is an increasing awareness that workers have families and that flexibility to meet their needs should be part of employment law. However, Germany’s approach to home schooling compromises this and forces families to choose between a job and the best interests of the children. The need for family friendly employment policies must be recognised throughout the EU. We need to have flexibility in the education of children temporarily resident because of work. There is also an issue around the attitude to non-German families in the German children’s courts. I hope the dialogue between the Commission and the German State will resolve this discriminatory situation.”
For further information, questions or comments, please contact Kathy on:
Brussels office: +32 228 47692
Cork office: +353 21 4888 793