Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Parents’ Saga and the CRPD


Talking and reading about what separates those who support Senate ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) from those who do not is an interesting and sometimes a sad journey. Recently, I have developed a better understanding about why some parents, who home school their children, some of whom have disabilities, fear ratification of the CRPD. It involves the Romeike family from Germany.

This family was home schooling their children. They obtained visas and moved from Germany to Tennessee. They did so because it is illegal in Germany to home school children. When the family’s U.S. visas expired, it appealed to a U.S. immigration court. The court granted the family asylum; that is the right to stay in the U.S. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) determined that the likely prosecution for home schooling their children, if the family returned to Germany, was not a legitimate basis for asylum in the U.S. The DOJ took the family back to court. The family has lost every round in court. Their lawyer, Michael Farris, founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the Romeike’s case. If the Supreme Court declines, the Romeike family will be deported. Here’s a link that contains a video that gives the family’s story: http://www.hslda.org/legal/cases/romeike.asp.

What’s the connection between the Romeike’s circumstance and the ratification of the CRPD? Some U.S. parents, who home school their children, believe that if the CRPD were ratified, that it would trump all current U.S. law, and strengthen the power of authorities to prohibit home schooling and to remove children from parents if the parents did not stop homeschooling.

As I explained in another blog post, “Best Interest of the Child”, what some of these parents fear, would not happen in the U.S. All states allow home schooling. States, not the federal government, have authority over educational and child protection policies. At the federal level, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act gives parents powerful rights with regard to educational decisions that would affect their children with disabilities. And, in the Senate resolution on ratification of the CRPD that did not pass December 2012, there was clear language that said the CRPD would not or could not change things on these matters.

Yet, in spite of these facts parents remain fearful. Well, as I understand it, Attorney General Eric Holder has the power to grant the Romeike family asylum. If he did that perhaps the fears of parents who home school their children could be reduced. They may be willing to sit down with those of us, who support ratification, and talk about text that could be put in a new Senate resolution on the ratification of the CRPD that affirms parents’ rights strongly and clearly.

There are those in government who fear setting a precedent that would open the flood gates to thousands of home schooling families if asylum was granted to the Romeikes. I say, so? Ratification of the CRPD is important. We must remove barriers and eliminate fears. Both sides could have a thoughtful discussion of how to make ratification of the CRPD happen if this particular barrier went away.

How about if we send tweets to Eric Holder (@realericholder, #ericholder) asking for asylum for the Romeike family? How about if we send tweets to Secretary of State John Kerry (@StateDept (the ones Secretary Kerry sends have "_JK" at the end of the tweet), #StateDept) asking him to support asylum for the Romeike family? We have nothing to loose and, who knows, they may choose to do the right thing.

Thank you.
Common Grounder

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