Fact Check: Romanian Parents NOT Sentenced For Homeschooling Children To Try To Avoid Pandemic Mandates

Fact Check

  • de: Ioana Burtea
Fact Check: Romanian Parents NOT Sentenced For Homeschooling Children To Try To Avoid Pandemic Mandates Misleading

Did a Romanian judge sentence a Romanian couple because they decided to pull their four children out of school to avoid pandemic restrictions and mandates? No, that's not true: The couple received a suspended sentence and community service because of the quality of homeschooling they gave their children and not implementing educational guidelines.

The claim appeared in a video (archived here) on TikTok by @resetatpentruadevar on January 7, 2024. It began (translated from Romanian to English by Lead Stories staff):

Parents sentenced in first court because they didn't trust the schools during the pandemic.

This is what the post looked like on TikTok at the time of writing:

Screenshot 2024-01-10 at 14.15.02.png

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Wed Jan 10 11:11:15 2024 UTC)

The couple, who remained unnamed, from Bihor County was sentenced in first court (archived here) to a suspended jail sentence of four months and to community service for the way they homeschooled their four children. The decision is not related to their views about the pandemic mandates, but to the quality of education (archived here) they gave the minors -- aged 8, 10, 11 and 13 years old.

The case ended up in court after the headmaster of the Bratca village high school reported the parents to the authorities in 2020, due to them pulling the children out of school. Local reports mention (archived here) the parents were unhappy about the children needing to wear a mask in school or receiving information about vaccination, but also about online teaching. In documents obtained and published by Adevarul newspaper (archived here) prosecutors noted that the couple was against their children using the internet for any reason, watching TV or attending online classes.

After pulling them out of school, the parents registered the children with two American homeschooling institutions -- Home Life Academy and West River Academy (archived here and here). Home Life does not require testing or recommend any textbooks, only for the parents to submit records of attendance and grades twice a year. A judge found they had taught the children (archived here) using Romanian textbooks they bought without any guidance or compliance with educational requirements. The parents were also insufficiently schooled to be able to teach -- the mother didn't go to high school. Social workers also told the court that the four children had large gaps in their knowledge and skills set, including socializing (archived here) with peers.

The couple was sentenced to a four-month suspended jail term and community service for violating their children's right to education. The decision is not final and can be appealed, but so far the two haven't appealed (archived here). It is also not a first in Romanian jurisprudence (archived here) -- there have been several cases of parents indicted for not offering their children appropriate education.

Homeschooling is not regulated or officially recognized (archived here) in Romania. It is not included in the law organizing pre-university education (archived here). Any parent or guardian who pulls a minor out of pre-university education is liable in court for restricting their right to proper education, which is guaranteed by the Constitution. At the beginning of 2024, the Ministry of Education asked school inspectors (archived here) throughout the country to inform authorities of cases involving parents pulling their children out of compulsory pre-university education without offering them a state-sanctioned alternative.

  Ioana Burtea

Ioana Burtea has worked in journalism for 15 years. She started her career at Mediafax news agency in Bucharest and has written for DoR magazine for over seven years. Her collaborations include publications like Europe & Me, New Eastern Europe, Balkan Insight and Washington Post. Ioana published pieces on the justice system in Romania, social affairs, politics and personal essays. In 2018,  she became a fellow of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network.  In 2021, she received the first prize in the Portrait category at the national Superscrieri journalism awards.

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