Just one year after Dirk and Petra Wunderlich’s four children were snatched in a police raid over home education, a state appeals court has said that—while homeschooling remains a danger and that the children should go to school—it was wrong for a family court judge in the case to keep legal custody away from the parents.

In a decision highly critical of the parents and of homeschooling, the appeals court decided that the action of the lower court was “disproportional” and ordered complete custody returned to the family.

Dirk and Petra Wunderlich, who began homeschooling again when the court signaled it would rule this way, were very pleased with the result but noted that the court’s harsh words about homeschooling indicated that their battle was far from over.

“We have won custody and we are glad about that,” Dirk said. “The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate—only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead. But this decision upholds the absurd idea that homeschooling is child endangerment and an abuse of parental authority.”

“While we no longer fear that our children will be taken away as long as we are living in Hessen, it can still happen to other people in Germany,” he continued. “Now we fear crushing fines up to $75,000 and jail. This should not be tolerated in a civilized country.”

“We Thank All Homeschoolers”

“We could not do this without the help of HSLDA,” said Petra Wunderlich. “No family can fight the powerful German state—it is too much, too expensive. If it were not for HSLDA and their support, I am afraid our children would still be in state custody. We are so grateful and thank all homeschoolers who have helped us by helping HSLDA.”

HSLDA’s Director for Global Outreach, Michael Donnelly, who was in Germany on his way to an international family forum in Moscow, Russia—where homeschooling is growing and protected by law—discussed the case with the Wunderlich family.

He welcomed the ruling but was concerned about the court’s troubling language. “We welcome this ruling that overturns what was an outrageous abuse of judicial power.” he said. “The lower court decision to take away legal custody of the children essentially imprisoned the Wunderlich family in Germany. But this decision does not go far enough. The court has only grudgingly given back custody and has further signaled to local authorities that they should still go after the Wunderlichs with criminal charges or fines.”

Such behavior in a democratic country is problematic, said Donnelly.

“Imprisonment and fines for homeschooling are outside the bounds of what free societies that respect fundamental human rights should tolerate,” he explained. “Freedom and fundamental human rights norms demand respect for parental decision making in education. Germany’s state and national policies that permit banning home education must be changed. Such policies from a leading European democracy not only threaten the rights of tens of thousands of German families but establish a dangerous example that other countries may be tempted to follow.”

“Their Fight is Our Fight”

HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris says that defending the Wunderlichs is an important stand for freedom.

“The Wunderlichs are a good and decent family whose basic human rights were violated and are still threatened,” he said. “Their fight is our fight and we will continue to support those who stand against German policy banning homeschooling that violates international legal norms. Free people cannot tolerate such oppression and we will do whatever we can to fight for families like the Wunderlichs both here in the United States and abroad. We must stand up to this kind of persecution where it occurs or we risk seeing own freedom weakened.”

HSLDA has been assisting the Wunderlich family since their children were taken on August 29, 2013. The children were put in a group home where they were tested and returned three weeks later, at which point they attended the local public school as a condition of their return. HSLDA continues to champion the cause of homeschooling freedom in the United States and is active in encouraging homeschooling communities all over the world.

Homeschooling has been proven to be a successful method of education that yields excellent academic and social results. In countries like Germany where there are few homeschoolers and the government exercises extreme control, the option is threatened and the movement cannot grow. Germany’s troubling policy also emboldens homeschooling critics, including those in the American academic circles who have called for mandatory and universal education. For more information about the family.

We invite all free people to stand with us to defend the Wunderlichs as they prepare for an onslaught of criminal and financial pressure. By supporting this case and others like it in the United States, Germany, and elsewhere, we are defending freedom for the entire homeschool movement. You can support our work with a donation to the Homeschool Freedom Fund. In addition, we invite you to keep the Wunderlich family in your thoughts and prayers.