In October of this year, Dirk and Petra Wunderlich lost legal custody of their children for homeschooling. The family was forced to return to Germany after Mr. Wunderlich was unable to locate work elsewhere in Europe. They were reported to authorities by a neighbor who saw that they did not send their children to school. The family faces both criminal and civil charges for homeschooling.
As American families enjoyed their Thanksgiving holiday, the Wunderlich family received a visit from two social workers who planned to take the children to school to test them for grade level placement. When the social workers asked the children to “come along,” the children refused. Mr. Wunderlich reported that the school attendance officer Frau Christa Lettau, mocked the children, saying they were just parroting their parents’ orders.
“Yeah, yeah, you do not want to go to school because your parents do not want you to,” she reportedly said.
She told Mr. and Mrs. Wunderlich, “Do you know what type of consequences this has? We will then meet at a later date in Darmstadt again, and we will take away your complete custody.”
Mrs. Wunderlich asked her: “All for the welfare of the children?”
Frau Lettau responded, “Yes.”
The family then contacted their attorney Andreas Vogt, who spoke with Frau Lettau for a short time. After the conversation the now-angry social workers left the home, tersely informing the Wunderlichs that they would see them “in court.”
Battle for the Children
Sadly, as is the case for too many German families, the Wunderlichs’ homeschooling saga began with exile. Knowing that homeschooling was not tolerated in Germany the family left for France to escape threatened truancy charges. A traumatic experience followed when their four children were taken from them for four days following a report from German social workers to French social workers.
A French judge returned the children, reportedly telling the family it was their right to homeschool. However, Mr. Wunderlich, a gardener, was unable to find sufficient employment in France. Stints in Norway and Hungary followed, where employment also proved scarce. The family eventually returned to their home in Hessen, Germany and tried to homeschool quietly until they came to the attention of school attendance officials.
HSLDA Director for International Relations Michael Donnelly expressed frustration with Germany policy:“By refusing to make it possible for parents to homeschool their children, German governments at the state and federal level are simply derelict. In this case, the German state has viciously attacked the most precious interest the Wunderlich family has—their children. They are terrorizing this family by continuing to threaten them with actually physically putting their children in orphanages, even though there is no question that the children are well cared for and educated.”
Donnelly wonders how policy makers justify this inaction.
“This is a brutal act of a rogue totalitarian state. Germany may have hallmarks of a free society, but in the area of educational freedom, I don’t know how lawmakers, bureaucrats and judges can escape this terrific injustice—something needs to change in Germany soon.”
HSLDA Founder and Chairman Michael Farris says Germany must recognize educational freedom as a fundamental human right.
“I met the Wunderlich family when I spoke at the global home education conference in Berlin where only one federal German policy maker even bothered to show up. This precious family is only trying to do what is best for their children—what they simply have a fundamental human right to do—something Germany must recognize.”
“Please Act Now”
Farris hopes homeschoolers from everywhere will take action in support of this family.“I am asking our members and friends to send a statement to the German officials involved in this case,” he said. “Will you take a moment today to send a polite but firm note to the officials involved in this case? Tell them your story about the benefits of homeschooling. Tell them that homeschooling doesn’t create parallel societies. Tell them the homeschooling is beneficial to society. Tell them that a free people must tolerate educational freedom. Tell them to leave the Wunderlich children alone. Please act now to help this poor family.”
Stand with Us and Persecuted Homeschoolers
HSLDA stands with the Wunderlich family and scores of others around the world who are persecuted or struggling with government oppression over the call to homeschool. If you are able please send a message to one or all of the officials listed below. Let them know that the world is watching Germany and that the Wunderlichs are not alone. Please also consider partnering with us to advance the cause of freedom to homeschool by contributing to the Homeschool Freedom Fund. These resources are used to defend homeschooling freedom wherever and whenever it is threatened.
We will keep you updated about this important case as it unfolds. Please keep the Wunderlich family in your thoughts and prayers.