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Germany Shuts Down Elite Christian School

by | Thu, Oct 26 2023

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An award-winning Christian hybrid school in Germany is appealing to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) after the government shut it down. The Dietrich Bonhoeffer International School was accused of violating the country’s educational mandate which outlaws homeschooling.

It had operated for nine years as a supplementary school that allowed in-school and at-home learning, but was never officially accredited. Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court ultimately rejected the school’s application late last year.

In a letter to the school’s lawyer last month, German authorities wrote that “the immediate enforcement of the prohibitions is ordered,” and the school was also mandated to pay A$1,000 in administrative fees. “The prohibition serves to protect the state’s educational mandate. In the now-closed school, the state’s educational mandate would be completely displaced,” the letter said. The school was also ordered to surrender its website, which authorities claimed was an “advertisement for the impermissible school.”

The school’s principal and head of the Association for Decentralized Learning which operated the school, Jonathan Erz, said: “At our school, we were able to provide families with an education that meets their individual learning needs and allows students to flourish. It saddens me deeply that our students and teachers had to leave our school community.” He argued “children have a right to first-class education.”

Dr. Felix Böllmann, a German lawyer who serves as director of European advocacy for Christian legal advocate ADF international which is representing the school declared: “Parents are the first authority for the education of their children. They have the right, enshrined in international human rights law, to choose the kind of education that is best for their children, including by embracing innovative approaches like hybrid schooling.”

He observed that Germany has one of the most restrictive educational systems in the world. “The ones who suffer are the children and their families, whose longstanding and beloved school was forced to close.” he added. ADF international has filed a lawsuit with the ECHR citing an “egregious violation of freedom of education for the inability to open and run the school.”

The school was named after German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was executed by the Third Reich in 1945 after being accused of playing a role in the failed July 20 assassination plot against Adolf Hitler. His mother had refused to send her children to German public schools when they were very young, choosing instead to educate them herself.

Public school attendance became compulsory in Germany in 1920 before Hitler ultimately abolished primary schools run by churches.