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Isabella Brooke Knightly and Austin Gamez-Knightly

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Family fears own government; won't return to home

Family fears own government; won't return to home
'We are trying to sell our house and move our stuff out of the country'
Posted: October 05, 2010


By Bob Unruh

A thriving Dominic is shown in a passport photograph, left, just before he was taken into custody by Swedish social-services agents. The right photo, obtained by the Dominic Johansson website, shows a "not-so-thriving Dominic" some months after he was forcibly placed in the Swedish foster-care system.
A family – exiled to live as visitors in foreign countries for nine months already – has decided to leave Sweden permanently because of the threat of government action against them over their choice to homeschool their children, according to a new report.

The report on the "Pettersson" family, described as using a pseudonym to avoid retaliation, comes from the American-based international Home School Legal Defense Association, which supports homeschool families worldwide.

Previously, the organization documented the case of Dominic Johansson, who was "state-napped" by authorities as his parents were departing on a family move from Sweden to India over their decision to homeschool.

The Johansson case was elevated to the European Court of Human Rights, where the HSLDA and the Alliance Defense Fund have applied for a hearing.

The newer case was the subject of a recent report by the HSLDA, which said the Pettersson family has been traveling across Europe for nine months already, "staying temporarily with relatives and living as visitors in foreign lands."

The problem is that Sweden has boosted aggressively its opposition to parents who choose to teach their own children.

"We decided to leave Sweden and are currently trying to sell our house and move our stuff out of the country," the mother, Lynn, told the homeschooling organization.

The family's story is becoming all too familiar. Despite having submitted the state-mandated paperwork to homeschool, officials refused their plans.

It's now been a year since their battle with their local school district began. Returning to their home, they fear, would subject them to the "threats, stiff fines, continuous court battles, and the possibility of their children being removed from the home" that other families have endured.

The family appears to be on the leading edge of a movement of similarly situated families in Sweden.

"I am very concerned to go back to my home in Sweden because at the moment the Swedish authorities like to kidnap homeschooled kids," Lynn told the HSLDA.

The organization reports, "It is distressing that Sweden has begun to mimic the repressive actions of Germany, its neighbor to the south. Many German families have been forced to flee intense persecution in recent years and have settled in European countries such as Austria, France, Ireland and the United Kingdom."

The HSLDA even cited the case of the Romeike family, whose members fled Germany on the income from the sale of the father's grand piano and traveled to the United States.

In January, the family was granted political asylum to prevent them from being subjected to the penalties Germany would impose on them, including fines, jail time and possible family separation, should they return.

The HSLDA said part of the problem now in Sweden is that parliament has approved new restrictions on homeschooling.

"In the case of the Pettersson family, the headmaster from the local school denied them permission to homeschool. In addition, she threatened them with a social service investigation if the children did not immediately appear in school. The Petterssons waited for the school board to provide an explanation for the rejection of their application, but no explanation was supplied. Since the family had complied with Swedish law, they appealed the denial. The municipal government did not reply with a response until after a month had passed. In the meantime, the headmaster repeatedly summoned Mr. and Mrs. Pettersson to meetings and demanded that their school-age children attend school. The family informed the headmaster they had appealed the rejection of their application, putting the matter in the hands of the local government. Accordingly, they declined to meet with her until the appeal was heard. The headmaster responded by bringing the case to social services," the HSLDA reported.

Mike Donnelly, the chief of international affairs for the HSDLA, contacted the headmaster in March in response to a request from the family, but did not hear back for six months.

The organization reported that the family never has been called in by the local court to provide further information or supporting evidence.

Enough is enough, the family with five children decided in announcing plans to leave Sweden permanently.

In the Johansson case, Swedish authorities "seized the child because they believe homeschooling is an inappropriate way to raise a child and insisted the government should raise Dominic instead. Social-services authorities have placed Dominic in foster care as well as a government school and are only allowing [parents] Christer and Annie to visit their son for one hour every five weeks," according to reports from organizations supporting the family.

It was on June 25, 2009, when authorities dispatched police officers to invade an India-bound jetliner just moments before takeoff and take into custody the young boy.

Dominic's parents had been in a dispute with local government officials over their plans to homeschool him as the family prepared to move to India.

According to a website that supports the family, the head of Sweden's Department of Children and Education, Lena Celion, wrote that it was "for the boy's sake" that agents forcibly and without a warrant took him from his family, placed him with a foster family and enrolled him in a government school.

Gustaf Hofstedt, president of the local social-services board, has told WND by telephone from Sweden that there is more to the dispute than homeschooling, but he refused to explain.

"I understand the public debate has been that is a case that is only concerning the fact of homeschooling," he told WND. "But that is not the case."

Asked to explain, he said, "I can't answer that question because of secrecy."

There also is a petition on Dominic's behalf.

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