Christian mother Regiane Cichelero from the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina has been fined and threatened with losing custody of her 12-year-old son for educating him at home to instil Christian values.
She began the homeschooling during the pandemic and continued with it after public schools re-opened. Ms. Cichelero believed her son was receiving a higher quality education at home in accordance with her family’s Christian convictions.
But she’s being forced to pay a A$30 penalty for every day he doesn’t turn up at a state school up to a maximum fine of around A$1900. Prosecutors have issued a legal challenge for declining to enrol her son in the local school system. A judge initially threatened to take away custody of her son if she continued to homeschool the boy.
The mother who also has a younger child, told the Gazeta do Povo newspaper that after she withdrew her son from the school, the school carried out an “active search.” The case was forwarded to a tutelary council which warned the mother that federal law required compulsory enrolment. The case was then forwarded to a state government agency.
Christian legal advocacy group ADF International (ADFI) has taken up her cause. It called the fines and threat “reprehensible” and a “total violation of parental rights, guaranteed by international law which allows parents to choose the kind of education that is best for their children, including education in the home.“
“Parental rights are clearly under attack in Brazil,” said Julio Pohl, ADFI’s Legal Counsel for Latin America, who is supporting Ms. Cichelero’s legal defence. “We look forward to seeking justice for Ms. Cichelero and her family,” he continued.
The US-based Home School Legal Defense Association has warned that several homeschooling families in Brazil have faced harsh government treatment in recent years since a decision by the Brazilian Supreme Court in 2018. That ruling stated that homeschooling doesn’t conflict with the Constitution, but that the federal government can regulate home education.
More than 70,000 children are currently homeschooled in Brazil. Article 26.3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.” Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights holds that states must respect the right of parents “to choose schools for their children other than those established by the public authorities, which conform to such minimum educational standards as may be laid down or approved by the State and to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.”
Regiane Cichelero stated: “I choose to homeschool my son because I believe this is what is best for him and I am committed to providing him with the best possible education. Moreover, homeschooling ensures that I can impart our faith and values which are so important to our family and to him on a daily basis — values that are consistently challenged and undermined in Brazil’s public school system.”
“All parents have the God-given right and obligation to make choices that provide the best outcomes for our children. I am hopeful for the day when myself and others in Brazil can exercise our rights as parents without fear of being fined and prosecuted,” Ms. Cichelero added.
The Christian Post reports that earlier this month, a court in Chile acknowledged the rights of parents to decide how their children are educated, marking a significant change in Chilean educational policy. In a landmark ruling, the Court of Appeals for San Miguel validated the choice of pursuing foreign-based homeschooling programs. The case involved a Chilean student’s degree earned via homeschooling through an international institution, not being recognised by the Chilean Ministry of Education. The court affirmed that home-based education received and certified by a foreign institution operating under foreign law, should be recognised for all legal purposes in Chile.
Photo: ADF International