Three weeks after 20 German police and social workers raided a family’s home and removed their four children for the crime of homeschooling, the children have been returned home—on the condition that they attend government schools.
“What we’ve seen today is a reversal in the German courts caused by the mounting international pressure from human rights advocates,” said Home School Legal Defense Association Chairman Michael Farris. “This is a promising start to what will hopefully be a reversal on Germany’s stance on homeschooling altogether.”
Dirk and Petra Wunderlich, who live in Darmstadt, had cited religious reasons for homeschooling, claiming German schools do not allow for a Christian worldview. German private schools are funded by the government and strictly regulated.
Approximately 2 million American children are currently being homeschooled, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, and homeschooling is legal in all 50 states. In much of Europe, however, homeschooling is illegal, resulting in countries such as the Netherlands, Sweden, and Germany seizing children from their parents. The Obama administration has used arguments from international laws against homeschooling to attempt to deport another German family, who fled to the United States after German authorities threatened to remove their children for homeschooling.
“Germany is the only country in the European Union that treats homeschoolers with such aggressive enforcement,” said Mike Donnelly, HSLDA’s director of international affairs. “It’s the only country in the EU that has a Supreme Court decision saying it is [acceptable] to ban home-based education.”
Fear of Separation
While ostensibly overseeing a free, democratic society, the German government treats homeschooling families harshly, Donnelly said.
A German headmaster and longtime educator, who wished to remain anonymous because of political concerns, said attending private or religious schools there tends to be a mark of social status and segregation from the public system.
Germany’s ban on homeschooling dates back to the Nazi era, and it persists in large part because Germans fear ethnic and religious separation.
“The biggest concern against homeschooling is the fear of upcoming parallel societies, which in Germany definitely exist—but not due to homeschooling, due to immigration,” he said.
Obama DOJ Supports German Law
In 2010, HSLDA assisted another German family, the Romeikes, with a petition for asylum after they immigrated to the United States to avoid having their children removed in Germany.
A judge granted the family asylum in January 2010, but in 2012 the Obama administration revoked that asylum in response to an appeal from the German government.
U.S. Department of Justice briefs on the case stated, “the law could not be considered persecution unless it is selectively enforced or one is disproportionately punished.”
The Obama administration argues “homeschooling is not a fundamental right and that the government can prohibit and regulate homeschooling” Donnelly said. “Resistors in Germany are treated very harshly—right now there’s a family appealing their criminal conviction. We would say that’s persecution because the government is motivated by an improper purpose, which is to suppress this group of social homeschoolers.”
The Department of Justice refused comment.
‘It Can Happen Here’
“American homeschoolers, and people who love and support freedom, need to understand … if it can happen there, it can happen here,” Donnelly said.
When homeschooling first resurfaced in the United States in the 1970s, parents were fined and taken to court, and some had the custody of their children threatened or were jailed, Donnelly said.
“When an ally to the United States is permitted to get away with this kind of behavior it sends the wrong message,” Donnelly said. “Education should not be used to create political functionaries. It’s a fairness issue. Everyone pays taxes for their local education.”
More German families would homeschool if a fight with the authorities weren’t standing in the way, the German headmaster said.
“My children both have almost finished school, but I can say that it would have been better for both of them to have been homeschooled,” he said. “I think children could learn more at home, could learn in a better atmosphere, and teaching social skills would be easier at home.”
Image by IowaPolitics.com.