truancy

Families charged for pulling children out of school over Pentecost long weekend

Abschiebung abgelehnter Asylbewerber
ID, boarding pass and written permission allowing your children to skip school, please. Source: dpa

In Germany, kids have to go to school whether their parents want them there or not.

Police in southern Germany have filed 21 cases of truancy after spot checks at the Allgäu and Nuremberg airports on May 17 and 18. Officers caught families attempting to fly prior to the three-day Pentecost weekend without approval for their children to skip school. “The police are calling on parents not to take children out of school without the school’s permission, even just to take advantage of cheaper flights,” the police department in the town of Memmingen, home to the Allgäu Airport, said.

All German children are required by law to be in classes during regular school hours unless they have been previously excused by the school. Police around Germany often perform spot checks at airports and train stations prior to holidays and long weekends to catch parents who have illegally taken their children from school, often to take advantage of less expensive tickets. To be fair, Munich police said they caught no families in a similar Pentecost sweep.

German schools often refuse to excuse children prior to long weekends and holidays. International schools, however, often grant such requests because of the time and expense involved with visiting far-flung relatives.

Bundespolizei am Münchner Flughafen
That which stands between you and a really, really cheap flight to Majorca. Source: dpa

But the compulsory education laws go further than just reeling in bargain hunters — home-schooling is also illegal in Germany. The Wunderlich family from the central state of Hesse is suing the German government at the European Court of Human Rights after they were prohibited from home-schooling their children. The Wunderlich children were taken from the family for three weeks in 2013 until the parents agreed to send their three children to local schools.

However, while in the care of the state, officials tested the children. “To their certain annoyance, the test revealed the children to be performing at the same level as the average state school student,” wrote Robert Clarke, the family’s lead attorney, in Christian Today earlier this month. The European court has agreed to hear the case and Mr. Clarke expanded on his position: “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights — often described as the constitution of the entire human rights framework — says that parents have a ‘prior right’ to direct the upbringing of their children.”

It’s unclear if that prior right extends to getting a killer deal on airfare.

Andrew Bulkeley is an editor for Handelsblatt Global. To contact the author: bulkeley@handelsblattgroup.com

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