By Kathleen Gilbert

ZITTAU, Germany, December 12, 2008 ( – After living under a cloud of criminal charges since 2007, the Brause family in Germany has finally been cleared of criminal child neglect for having homeschooled their five children.

On December 2nd, Johannes Hildebrandt of the International Human Rights Group (IHRG), who had assisted the family’s legal battle, reported that the German court and the prosecutor are dropping charges against Mr. and Mrs. Brause. The Brouses had paid several fines and faced up to 2 years in prison as well as the potential loss of their children, who had been placed under the custody of the youth welfare office, or Jugendamt, since March 2007.

The children – Rosine, Jotham, Kurt-Simon, Lovis and Ernst – were allowed to stay at home during this time but were vulnerable to seizure by the government at any moment unless their parents submitted to the government’s demands and enrolled them in public school.

“We are pleased that the court and the prosecuting counsel asked whether the process can be ended,” said Joel Thornton, President and General Counsel for the IHRG. The decision came after the court received a detailed psychiatric assessment proving that no psychological harm was done to the children from homeschooling. The two eldest children also proved their scholastic aptitude by successfully completing public school exams.

The Brause family may now choose whether to have a sentence of acquittal in a public meeting in court, or a document issued declaring the process closed and the charges dropped.

The decision is being hailed as a major victory for families’ right to choose education in Germany, where homeschooling has been illegal since the Third Reich. Chancellor Adolf Hitler banned private schooling in 1938 in order to indoctrinate Nazi ideology through public schools, and created the Jugendamt in 1939 to supervise German families.

Human rights groups have been strongly critical of Germany’s totalitarian policies on education and the activities of the Jugendamt, which gained negative press when cracking down on another homeschooling family about the same time last year. After the Buskeros family consistently refused to return their 15-year-old daughter Melissa to public school, fifteen police officers forcibly seized the girl and placed her in a foster home in a location undisclosed to her parents, during which time she was allowed to see her family once a week.

Despite igniting outrage from Christians and human rights activists around the world, the German government continued to hold Melissa against her will, while falsely claiming to German media that the teen was happy in state custody. (

Practically the instant midnight struck on her 16th birthday, however – an age carrying greater independence under German law – Melissa left the foster home and arrived on her family’s doorstep at 3 a.m., after almost three months away from home.

See related coverage:

German Court Places Custody of Yet Another 5 Homeschooling Children with Government’s Youth Office