A German court that ordered four homeschooled children to be removed at gunpoint over homeschooling has since said he won’t let the family emigrate to another European country where homeschooling is legal. The children were returned three weeks after being taken, following an international outcry spearheaded by HSLDA.
The father of the children, Dirk Wunderlich, has told HSLDA that his lawyers requested confirmation from social workers that they wouldn’t interfere if his family emigrated to a neighboring country where homeschooling is legal. But the judge told his attorneys if he left the country before a scheduled December hearing he would make sure that they were brought back to face criminal sanctions.
The Court had awarded social workers legal custody over the children in 2012, then, in August 2013, a different judge authorized the armed raid to seize the children. The children were placed in a group home where tests showed the children were doing well socially and academically. The judge then made the family promise to send the children to school before he would allow them to go home.
The parents told HSLDA that they had no choice but to agree.
“What other choice did we have?” asked Dirk Wunderlich. “They had our children. We feel ravaged by the government. We don’t want our children in school but we have no choice—we can’t leave and if we don’t comply they will take our children away. We will make the best of it because we know if we tried to leave, the authorities would separate us and we might never see our children again or for a very long time.”
On October 28th all four of the Wunderlich children spent their first-ever day in government school.
The parents told HSLDA that the children were handling it well. They were also thankful for some school authorities who allowed the children to be paired up in their respective schools. Mr. Wunderlich explained that the forced schooling has significantly disrupted the rhythm of their previous family-oriented lifestyle. The children told their parents that they are already tired of school.
“Now the little ones go to school from 8–12:30 and the elder until 1:00. We are home together for lunch. Then they have homework to do,” he said. “The children find it strange and have commented on how confusing the school environment is. They tell me ‘Papa, the teacher takes a lot of time explaining what we must do and telling the other children to be quiet. We don’t get to actually do most work until we get home.’ My youngest son says he misses working on his projects.”
“I think homeschooling is much more effective because you can actually do the work and don’t have to lose time on all the other things that go into school,” said Wunderlich. “We hope with all our heart to get back to homeschooling somehow.”
“In the weeks before, it was terrible to think of my children going to school. I’m trying to have a more practical view. We will have a court date in December and hope we can get the full custody back and perhaps be able to go where homeschooling is tolerated. Our lawyers have made emergency requests and we hope perhaps an answer will come sooner. We don’t think we could do this for years, but for a few or more weeks we can. Anyway, we don’t really have any choice.”
HSLDA’s Attorney for International Affairs, Michael Donnelly, said that the organization will continue supporting the family and continues to hope for changes in German laws to make homeschooling legal.
“We are working with the family’s attorney and we hope we can bring international pressure to bear on this situation. For example we are now waiting and hoping the Supreme Court will take our Romeike asylum case. And we have other plans to bring international attention to Germany’s human rights abuses in this area,” he said. “As a Federal Republic the hope for homeschooling is in the state legislatures. We need some German statesman to step up and do the right thing here.”
“As a nation the culture has been hostile to homeschooling for some time. Our strategy has been to try to change that,” Donnelly continued.
“It’s a big job to try to change the mindset of an entire country. Germany is 80 million people with a long history of educational and cultural conformity. But we fought similar obstacles in the past in the US and today homeschooling is legal and flourishing in all fifty states. Americans have helped rescue the German people from totalitarianism once before, maybe we can do it again.”
Michael Farris, HSLDA Chairman, holds an LLM in Public International Law from the University of London. He said that Germany is not upholding its obligations in human rights.
“Germany has signed numerous treaties that recognize that the family has a superior right to make educational decisions vs. the government. Germany’s treatment of homeschoolers is a clear human rights violation. It’s not physical violence but lots of human rights are not physical, like free speech and freedom of religion and political opinion,” he said.
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted in direct response to what happened in Nazi Germany. It recognizes that parents have a prior right over the government to decide how children are educated. That’s because German Nazis took over the country’s educational system and used it as a weapon of social dominion.”
“Of course, today’s German Government isn’t teaching kids to be Nazis or carting homeschoolers off to labor camps. But many parents object to some things being taught and how they are taught on both religious and philosophical grounds. If parents can’t homeschool, what are they to do? Especially when you consider that private school curriculum must be state approved. It’s totalitarian—German judges and policy makers have their reasons, bad ones in my view, but this is a human right we are talking about. Which side of human rights does Germany want to be on?” he asked.