SCHOOL'S (NOT) OUT

German parents are getting in trouble with the police for taking kids on vacation early

A different kind of classroom.
A different kind of classroom.
Image: Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann
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Amid the existential issues of migration and the future of Europe lies a small corner of truancy that Germany is really cracking down on: The problem of parents who heist their kids out of school to secure cheaper holidays.

According to Der Spiegel, German police stationed in airports in Memmingen, Nuremberg and Munich are now investigating at least 20 families for pulling their kids out of school early for the three-day weekend that started on May 19. It is illegal in Germany to keep kids between the ages of 6 and 16 out of school.

Germany is not alone. In 2013, the UK government authorized local councils to fine parents who pull their kids out of school, with those refusing to pay the fine potentially facing a jail sentence of up to three months. The UK’s efforts to curb parents’ wayward behavior have failed, however. Since then, the number of authorized absences has fallen, while the number of kids missing school days for vacations has soared.

One UK father sued to overturn a £120 fine by his local council for an unauthorized school absence after taking his daughter to Disney World in Florida in 2015. Government lawyers representing the UK Department for Education said it was “absurd” to allow parents to remove their children from state schools at will, “when the sun is out.” Lawyers for the father, meanwhile, said the penalty would “criminalize parents on an unprecedented scale,” given that there were more than 4 million unauthorized school absences in 2015. The father initially won his case, but lost on an appeal to the UK Supreme Court.

In Germany, the families were not detained by police, but may face fines when they come back. A German police spokeswoman told the BBC:

“It would have been disproportionate to take the children back to school, as the families had paid for their holidays.”

According to Der Spiegel, parents now have two weeks to explain why they took their children out of school. If the reason is amounts to something like, “The sun was shining and the fares were right,” each family could face fines of up to €1,000 ($1,177).