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Springville Journal editorial: Bring me your tired and poor, but not your homeschoolers

SPRINGVILLE — It is not unusual for parents to seek alternative forms of education, for their children. From the Montessori program to the “unschooling” trend and from home schooling to Waldorf education, many choices are available, to American families.

Growing up, I often told people, “I am homeschooled. I am not a homeschooler.” Many of the 2 million other U.S. students in my situation are also quick to explain the difference. While I did study at home, I was not an introverted hermit.

I took music lessons from a local professional, studied and played sports with other home-educated kids, at a co-op and participated in live, broadcasted classes with students from all over the country.

While the Constitution does not include explicit wording that dictates Americans’ education choices, many forms of legislation explaining these rights have been adopted, over the years.

The latest, the No Child Left Behind Act, lays out education options for American families. Parents are allowed to select which public school their children will attend, or they may choose from a range of other possibilities, including magnet schools, charter schools, private schools, homeschooling and more.

This freedom to choose caught the eye of a German family, which had not experienced the same freedoms their American counterparts did.

Uwe and Hannelore Romeike of southwest Germany removed their children from public school in 2006. The parents said that the constant, unruly behavior of other students was keeping their children from learning and they described stories about “devils, witches and disobedient children” in the German readers their kids were required to read.

Germany outlawed homeschooling in 1918. After pulling their kids out of the school system, the Romeikes faced fines that totaled more than $11,000, threats that they would lose their children and a visit from German police, who took the older kids to school in a police van.

The family fled to America in 2008. In 2010, Lawrence Burman, a federal immigration judge, granted political asylum, on the grounds that the family had a “reasonable fear of persecution for their beliefs, if they returned” to Germany, according to The New York Times. The judge called the German government’s anti-homeschooling policy “utterly repellent to everything we believe, as Americans.”

The family of eight, with one on the way, has been existing peaceably in Tennessee, educating the five older children at home and sending the kids to play sports and take science classes, at a co-op.

Considering that President Barack Obama’s recent immigration reform would establish an avenue for citizenship to illegal aliens, allowing a family that has applied for legal asylum to stay in the United States seems like a no-brainer.

But that is not what the United States Department of Homeland Security believes. That department has challenged Burman’s decision to give the Romeikes political asylum. The Board of Immigration Appeals has overturned the judge’s ruling, saying that the family is not being persecuted and does not belong to a particular social group, the two grounds allowed for political asylum.

Professor David Abraham from the University of Miami Law School told Fox News that he believes homeschooling is not a basic human right and that this family should not be allowed to stay in the U.S.

The Home School Legal Defense Association is representing the Romeike family in a case that will be heard in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on April 23.

Article 26, section 3 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights said, “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”

Germany, a member of the United Nations, will not allow these parents to make that choice, so the Romeikes have turned to our nation, asking for help, in raising their children the way they believe is right.

Our government, which doesn’t bat an eye, when deciding to educate illegal aliens’ children or provide immigrants with healthcare, now wants to evict this family, which came to the country legally and is merely asking to educate their kids, in their own way.

HSLDA representative Michael Farris said, “In a season where the administration has expressed leniency for millions of undocumented immigrants, we are baffled by the extreme attitudes toward this one German family.

“Our own government is attempting to send them back,” he continued. “Something important is being said, about our own liberties as American homeschoolers.”

A “We the People” petition, defending the Romeikes’ plea to stay in the U.S., garnered more than 111,000 signatures in fewer than 30 days. The Obama administration said that petitions which gather more than 100,000 signatures will receive an official review and a formal response.

View and sign the petition on www.petitions.whitehouse.gov.
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