Cavalry arrives for beleaguered homeschool family (with video)
Bob Unruh - WND
A top human rights expert who also is accomplished in Swedish law has been assigned to help a homeschool family whose 7-year-old son was taken into custody by police and has been detained by social services agents in Sweden for almost a year.
The startling assignment by Swedish courts of attorney Ruby Harrold-Claesson to the case of Christer and Annie Johansson came only days after WND reported on a campaign by the Home School Legal Defense Association for homeschoolers and others worldwide to contact Swedish authorities about the case.
The Johansson's son, Dominic, was apprehended last year by police on a jetliner as the family awaited departure on a planned move to India, Annie's home country. There were no charges against the family or allegations of criminal activity.
Local education officials and social workers object to the family's choice to provide a homeschooling education for their son, even though the activity technically remains legal in Sweden.
The latest development came after a hearing between the parents and social workers over Dominic's status was canceled. The boys parents are allowed a short visit once every five weeks.
Court officials picked a local attorney to represent the family, but Christer Johansson rejected him out of hand, and the court, in a move that surprised advocates for the family, appointed the nationally known human rights leader. Harrold-Claesson is president of the Nordic Committee for Human Rights.
Born in Jamaica, she married Hakan Claesson and settled in Sweden, where she specializes in cases in which children have been taken by state or other governmental officials.
Annie and Dominic Johansson
"The lawyer is a real freedom fighter," Michael Donnelly, an executive with the HSDLA, told WND. "She goes toe-to-toe over this issue. She's a fighter for the family in Sweden."
She has studied law and political science in France and has done post-graduate studies in legal history and her law degree in Sweden. She has presented several cases of human rights breaches to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.
Donnelly said because of Harrold-Claesson's successful activism she's looked on with suspicion by authorities and social services agencies, which is why the appointment was surprising.
The move came only days after the HSLDA launched its campaign to have people contact Swedish authorities on behalf of the Johansson family.
Donnelly told WND the situation in Sweden overall appears to be deteriorating for homeschooling families. He said he has just begun working on another case in which a family has been fined 20,000 Swedish kroners, about $4,500, for homeschooling a 13-year-old who, by court statements of school officials themselves, is outstanding both academically and socially..
It was last June when Swedish police barged into a passenger jet awaiting departure from Sweden to India and forcibly took Dominic into custody.
Christer Johansson told WND in an interview from Sweden that he and Annie were very tired after dealing with the stress of forced family separation for months. His wife repeatedly has been hospitalized for symptoms they believe result from the decision by social workers to separate the family,
He told WND of further pressure from "some kind of investigation" that continues, even though there never has been any evidence that would justify the state taking custody of Dominic from his parents.
His wife, he said, "gets panicked now and then."
"We can't make any plans for the moment," he said. "I have done what I can get done. … We are just waiting to get Dominic back. Annie needs her family to be able to get back [her health] at all."
The family had planned a move to India for her to be near family members when the conflict erupted last year.
The HSLDA documented that the child was removed "without a warrant or reasonable cause to believe that he was being harmed.
"Their reasoning? Dominic was being homeschooled, which is permitted by Swedish law, and his parents had also legally opted out of giving him standard vaccinations," the group said.
Further, in December, "after being kept in state custody for several months with minimal visitation from his parents, a Swedish court upheld this decision."
Christer told WND that other parents who find themselves in such situations should "get a good lawyer" immediately.
He said he and his wife have been shocked by what has happened.
"It's difficult for me to speak about all this, and really I have not landed yet. It's just so crazy. It's insane stuff that's happening. It has to stop," he told WND.
When the court ruling was announced, Donnelly, director of international affairs for the HSLDA, called the court decision "deeply disturbing."
"The hostility against homeschooling and for parent's rights is contrary to everything expected from a Western nation," he said.
Support also is being generated for the family on Facebook.
Christer shared one of Annie's episodes of ill health on the blog: "The ambulance was here just a few min back, this is the fourth time Annie collapses with chest pain. We had a meeting with the socials a few weeks back, and Annie could not believe how bad they treat people, how much they humiliate! … I really wonder, do they know how to stop before she dies or what? I'm more angry then ever, this has to stop!"
"At times referred to as a 'social utopia,' Sweden is completely antagonistic toward homeschoolers and, in reality, anyone who deviates from what the Swedish government defines as 'normal.' The government's quest for conformity produces troubling side effects: the criminalization of actions – such as a parent's decision regarding the best form of education for his child – that ought to be the hallmarks of a free, democratic society," HSLDA has reported.
"Taking children from their parents over minor differences in approaches to medical care (e.g. choosing not to vaccinate or delaying minor dental treatments) and for homeschooling is completely at odds with the basic human rights which all Western democracies should reflect," the HSLDA said.
The attack on homeschoolers appears to be part of a trend in some Western nations, including Germany. WND reported when a German family was granted asylum in the United States because of the persecution members would face if returned to their home country.
In an online statement at the time of the abduction, Johansson said, "While we may do things differently than most Swedes, we have not broken any laws and we have not harmed our son. We decided as a family that we wanted to move to India where we could be near my wife's family. But the government has taken over my family, and now we are living in a nightmare. I fear for the life of my wife under this torture and for the well-being of my son who has only been allowed to see his parents for a few hours since he was taken. The government is alienating my son from me, and I am powerless to do anything."
"What you have here is a socialist country trying to create a cookie cutter kid," said Roger Kiska, an Alliance Defense Fund attorney based in Europe. "This kind of thing happens too often where social workers take a child and then just keep him."
April 30, 2010