Anyone from Sweden chime in on this?
Who owns your children? Sweden's answer is absolute: government
So for home-schooling their son one month, the Johanssons must forfeit him permanently
When Swedish artist Christer Johansson and his wife Annie took their seven-year-old son Domenic out of school for a month, prior to their permanent move to Annie's native India, they could not possibly have foreseen the consequences. This minor domestic arrangement would be seen as an act of defiance against the government. Over the next four years it would wind up in the Supreme Court of Sweden and before the European Court of Human Rights, would involve the Swedish ambassador in Washington, and would see the Johanssons legally deprived of all parental rights and effectively denied custody of Domenic for the rest of his childhood.
Their predicament resonated in the minds and hearts of parents all over the world: Who is responsible for the welfare and upbringing of Domenic? Christer and Annie Johansson, or the Swedish government? Christer and Annie believe that they are. But the Swedish government has gone to seemingly bizarre lengths to establish that they are not, and so far it has succeeded. Domenic has been kept for four years in foster homes to underline the point.
The story unfolds in true Kafkaesque style. On June 25, 2009, the father, mother and Domenic, their only child, were about to take off from Sweden in a Turkish airliner bound for their new home. Suddenly two Swedish police entered the cabin, seized the child and departed, leaving the parents aghast, protesting and ignored. Their crime, as they later discovered, was that they had home-schooled him for a month. There was nothing in Swedish law then that permitted parents to educate their children at home, but nothing to explicitly forbid it either.
Thereafter things went from bad to worse. It took the Johanssons nine months to get their case before a Swedish lower court, which determined that these parents were sane and competent, and assumed their son would now be returned to them. The government refused to do so. The case became a public issue in Sweden and thousands signed a petition urging that Domenic be released. Then, in June 2010, the government announced a formal ban on home-schooling.
Another court had meanwhile denied the Johanssons further legal aid, but by then the case was gaining international attention. In the United States, the Home School Legal Defence Association took up their cause. It brought the case before the European Court, and also appealed to anyone concerned with parental rights -- which are guaranteed under the United Nations Charter -- to petition the Swedish government to repeal what many see as a draconian invasion of them. And while this was going on, would Sweden please let Domenic Johansson go home to his mother and father? The answer was still no.
The government then began questioning the parental competence of the Johanssons. The father's art career was uncertain, they said. Since Annie spoke English, she was lax about teaching Domenic Swedish. Although she held an MA from the University of Pune, and a first-class diploma from the Bombay Institute of Management Studies, she nevertheless lacked "parental ability." Further, she was becoming increasingly emotional about her son. "Her present state strongly affects her ability to be a parent," declared one governmental spokesman.
With this, and the further disclosure that Christer had at one point in his life suffered from depression, a Swedish appeal court reversed the initial lower court and ordered that Domenic continue in custody. His parents could see him once every five weeks, but were warned against explaining to him why he was not at home. But then Christer Johansson on one visit did take his son home. He consequently spent two months in jail, was fined 15,000 kroner ($2,300), and both parents were denied any further legal role whatsoever in Domenic’s life.
It now seems that the boy will see neither of them until he reaches adulthood. When U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo) wrote to Swedish Ambassador Jonas Hafstrom, asking him to explain the Swedish government position, he received a terse reply: "The government does not find that home-schooling is necessary for any religious or philosophical reason." This would appear to refer to the fact that Christer and Annie Johansson are practicing Christians.
The work of author Daniel Hammarberg appears to be more illuminating. In his book, The Madhouse, describing life in socialist Sweden, he recounts numerous such bureaucratic episodes. "The state definitely considers children its property," he writes. "They don't care about international law and verdicts from the European Court of Human Rights." However, he adds, "a single intact family, standing up and protesting might inspire the whole lot of society to follow them. So they have to make sure they get to indoctrinate every single child."
His assessment is vindicated by an anomaly that seems to make the Johansson case even more puzzling. In 1992, Sweden introduced vouchers into its school system, which provided funding for scores of new independent schools. Many of them operate like private businesses, and many have become extraordinarily successful and popular. In fact, the present educational reform in Britain is reportedly being modelled on this Swedish program.
Many of these Swedish "free schools" are run by religious organizations, and all must meet government-set standards in skill subjects, but may add to these whatever additions they choose. So why would a government that seemingly is so committed to independence in education come down so hard on an independent family seeking to home-school a child?
The explanation, some suggest, lies in the very success of the free school program. Many professional educators dismissed the idea as doomed from the start, not realizing how deep public distrust in the state system had become. They may be opposing home schooling because they fear it will prove as popular and effective as the free schools, loosening even further governmental control on what children are taught.
Others discern a still deeper factor in the Johansson case. They cite a paper by David Bradley of the law department of the London School of Economics, written 19 years before Domenic Johansson was taken into custody. Entitled Children, Family and the State in Sweden, it described Swedish planners as harbouring a rooted distrust for the traditional family. "The view in Sweden," he wrote, "is that the housewife represents a dying race."
"Official policy has been founded on the premise that women should be employed outside the home," Bradley reported. Thus in 1991 the Swedish Parliament resolved that Swedish children were to go into daycare at the age of 18 months. People with assumptions like those of the Johanssons would soon discover they simply did not belong in such a country.
The international Home School Legal Defense Association is appealing to people world-wide to email the Swedish Supreme Court asking them to give the Joahanssons back their son.
"I want you to remember that, to remind you to stay out of my way. In all the years to come, in all your most private moments, I want you to remember my hand at your throat. I want you to remember the one man who beat you."