Swiss Court Fines Mom 2,000 Francs for Asking Permission to Home School
By refusing to uphold the family’s rights, Switzerland opens the door to a de facto ban on home education.
At the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, a mom in Basel, Switzerland applied to local primary school authorities for permission to teach her 8-year-old son at home. Permission was denied—no reason given. Since Swiss home education law varies from canton to canton (region to region), and Basel is infamous for tough education policies, it seems that Basel-Stadt education authorities simply hold a bias against home schools.
The mom—who chose to remain anonymous—sued these officials last year on the grounds that they were arbitrarily interfering in her parental responsibilities. She wasn’t seeking damages, just the right to keep her own son home and teach him herself.
On Monday, the five justices of Switzerland’s highest court ruled that there is no fundamental right for Swiss parents to teach their own children. Even if they meet all the restrictions officially required by the Basel-Stadt authorities, that does not guarantee the issuance of a “home education license.”
Furthermore, the court declared, each canton has the right to allow or ban home education as it sees fit. While cantons with home education-friendly laws are safe—for now—this ruling opens the door for major restrictions on home school parents.
More than 1,000 home schools exist in Switzerland right now, with the vast majority (600 or so) in the canton of Vaud. This ruling is likely to halt any momentum the movement was experiencing. Now is a crucial time for Swiss home educators to make their voices heard: parental rights take precedence over bureaucratic processes.
It’s outrageous that such a benign—and in fact, beneficial—act as home education should require a license. It’s even more outrageous that this Swiss mom was required to plead her case in Switzerland’s highest court. But most indefensible of all is the court’s ruling that school enrollment would be required for her son—and that she would be charged 2,000 Francs for wasting the court’s time.
Maybe this mom decided that the Basel-Stadt school system, where 20 percent of students exhibit “disruptive behavior” that has led to “classroom incidents.,” was not the right place for her son. Maybe she thought she could offer him the unique value of a customized education.
Whatever her reason, it is unclear what the canton gains by forcing this young man to sit in a classroom where he’d rather not be. Educators in every country agree that parental engagement is crucial to student success—so why are Basel authorities cracking down on the ultimate form of parental engagement?
It seems that now, the only option for this mom and others like her is to relocate. Thankfully, that doesn’t mean leaving the country, as it would for German or Swedish families—many Swiss cantons allow home education to thrive. These places are allowing parents to take their children’s education to the next level and produce Europe’s future leaders and thinkers.
Basel, on the other hand, is falling behind.