So you thought Germany was a nice democratic country? Did you know that the state there routinely locks up people who dare to home school their children?
The latest case to make the news concerns a home schooling family whose 15-year-old German girl who has been removed from her family and placed in a psychiatric institution.
The row centers around the 15-year-old Erlangen resident Melissa B., the oldest of six children. Melissa was taken out of her high school by her parents and educated at home after she was told that she would have to repeat seventh grade following problems with her performance at school.
But when the Youth Welfare Office in Erlangen fielded calls from a number of people -- including from Melissa's former school -- saying they were concerned about the girl, the authorities got involved, according to an official familiar with the case. When the family refused to cooperate, the family court in Erlangen commissioned a psychiatric report on the teenager to determine the veracity of the concerns -- a standard procedure in such cases.
The report, which has since been posted on the Internet, diagnosed Melissa as suffering from "emotional disturbances" and "school phobia" and recommended that she be made a charge of the Youth Welfare Office as her parents were not able to meet her needs. Melissa was removed from her home on Feb. 1, 2007 and placed in a psychiatric clinic for young people in Nuremberg for further testing. The family court's decision was upheld in a further court decision on Feb. 16 and again this week in a decision by a higher appeals court.
The case is seen by home schooling proponents as an attack by the German authorities on the practice of home schooling. "I think this is the worst case we have ever experienced in the home schooling movement here in Germany," German home schooling activist Joerg Grosselümern told the US-based Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). Grosselümern called Melissa a "hostage" and said she had been "abducted" by the authorities.
The family told CBN that they had received letters of support from around the world. "You ask yourself, what have I done wrong that this must happen to me?" the girl's mother Gudrun B. said in an interview with CBN. "I know that God is helping us," she added. "But humanly speaking, we have no help against these people. What can we do against them? You feel very helpless against the officials."
The family's other five children are all in public school and the family say they are not opposed in principle to Melissa returning to school. CBN reports that Melissa is now being held in "a foster home at a secret location" while the court battle continues.
The case is the latest in a series in Germany relating to home schooling. A Christian family fled to Austria last year after the father had been jailed for a week for refusing to enroll his children in public school.