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Antwerp haredim seek injunction against home-schooling limits

(JTA) — Hundreds of haredi Orthodox parents petitioned an Antwerp court seeking an injunction against new restrictions on home schooling.

The parents of 1,269 pupils on Oct. 4 asked the city’s district court to suspend a decree issued in July by the government of Belgium’s autonomous Flemish region that imposes the limitations.

Home schooling is a favored option among parents belonging to Antwerp’s 10,000-member haredi community.

Antwerp has several Orthodox Jewish day schools that combine Jewish studies with secular subjects.

The decree states that home-schooled students need to pass state exams at the ages of 11 and 15 or be enrolled in public institutions. Parents also are required to supply the government with detailed curricula.

The parents argued that the restrictions limit their freedom to educate their children according to their beliefs and asked the court to fine the government $6,780 per child for every day the limitations are in place, according to a report by Belga, the Belgian news agency. The court has two weeks to make a decision on the petition.

Although the pupils are defined as home schooled, they in fact attend privately managed, non-subsidized educational frameworks run by the community that offer organized classes in Jewish studies.

The parents also argued in their petition that “children who received only religious education since they were six years old cannot catch up” with subjects that appear on the state exam, according to the news site Zita.be.

Some prominent members of Antwerp’s Jewish community as well as educators have said the decrees were necessary to better prepare haredim for the job market and reverse rising poverty in the haredi community.

Officials from the Antwerp municipality told the newspaper Het Nieuwsblad that only Belgium’s constitutional court is qualified to rule on the matter, which they said was not urgent and does not justify an urgent injunction as requested by the parents.

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