German police fine parents at airport for taking children out of school early | News | DW | 21.05.2018
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German police fine parents at airport for taking children out of school early

Police at a German airport have fined parents for going on vacation before the official start of school holidays. School attendance is compulsory in Germany.

Police stationed at a Bavarian airport fined several parents for taking their children on holiday before the official start of school holidays, local media reported on Sunday.

School truancy is treated seriously in Germany and parents can be held liable if children do not attend school from age six to 16.

Read more: Bavaria passes controversial law expanding police powers

The airport crackdown

  • In the week leading up to the Pentecost holidays, six police officers checked families with children at Memmingen Airport, news magazine Der Spiegel reported.
  • If children were of school age, officers "gently pressured" parents for the name of their school, Stern reported.
  • The school was called to see if they had permission.
  • Ten families were charged with enabling truancy.
  • The fine for truancy can be as high as €1,000 ($1,177), Bayerischer Rundfunk reported.

Read more: Germany's CSU and CDU want 'values' taught to refugee children in schools – report

School can insist on students' return

"We have known about this phenomenon for a long time, and this is one of our tasks," a police spokesman told Der Spiegel. "If the teacher then says that they insist on the presence of the children, we have to bring them back." However, in these cases, the spokesman said the parents would likely just have to save a bit on their holiday to pay for the fine.

Bavarian police asked parents "not to take their children out of school before their holidays without school exemption." Parents must apply to the school for exemption and a decision is made by the headmaster.

Criticism from parents, unions

"It’s true that we have to adhere to the rules, but getting the police involved is a bit of an exaggeration," said Stephan Wassmuth, head of Germany’s Federal Parents Council.

The Education and Science Workers’ Union (GEW) agreed, saying that "it makes more sense to have a conversation with parents. Police involvement for individual cases is too strong a reaction."

Read more: German parents may face trial after refusing mosque field trip (2016)

Holiday prices: Despite strict laws against truancy, many parents try to avoid crowds and inflated flight prices by taking their children out of school a few days before the official start of vacation.

Pentecost holidays: Most western German states grant students a long weekend for the Pentecost weekend (May 19 to May 21), but Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg grant a full two weeks.

German school system: School education is free in Germany, with a basic education generally consisting of 10 years of schooling. Students may apply for university or career training after successfully finishing at least 12 years of schooling. Particular to Germany is a system that places students with a company for on-the-job training in addition to studies to prepare for a career. Homeschooling is illegal.

Read more: German court sends teen to jail for skipping school (2012)

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