German judge bars homeschooling family from leaving country

A German judge who ordered the forced removal of the Wunderlich family's children in August has blocked the parents' request to let the family emigrate to another European country where homeschooling is legal.
Mon Nov 11, 2013 - 2:20 pm EST

DARMSTADT, Germany, November 11, 2013 ( - A German judge who ordered the forced removal of the children of a homeschooling family in August has blocked the parents' request to let the family emigrate to another European country where homeschooling is legal, according to the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).

On August 29th, a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed the Wunderlich family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany and forcibly removed all four of the family’s children, ages 7–14.

The stated reason for this action was that the parents, Dirk and Petra Wunderlich, continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The German high court is on record ordering suppression of “parallel societies,” mentioning homeschoolers specifically.

The children were returned three weeks after being taken, following an international outcry spearheaded by HSLDA. The court imposed the condition on the parents that their children would attend state schools in order for them to be released.

Dirk Wunderlich told HSLDA that his lawyers requested confirmation from social workers that they would not interfere if his family emigrated to a neighboring country where homeschooling is legal. But the judge told his attorneys if they left Germany before a scheduled December hearing he would make sure that they were brought back to face criminal sanctions.

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.”

“In the weeks before, it was terrible to think of my children going to school. I’m trying to have a more practical view," Dirk said. "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.”

The parents said that while their children are handling the transition to institutionalized schooling fairly well, the forced schooling has significantly disrupted the rhythm of their previous family-oriented lifestyle. The children have already told their parents that they are 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,” Dirk 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.”

HSLDA’s Attorney for International Affairs, Michael Donnelly, said that the organization will continue supporting the Wunderlich 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," Donnelly 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 stated.

“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.”

HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said that in denying parents the right to educate their own children, 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,” Farris said. "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?”

HSLDA has begun a campaign to urge all homeschoolers and concerned people to contact the German embassy in their countries to protest this blatant violation of Germany’s human rights commitments.

To contact the German embassy in Canada, click here.

To contact the German embassy in the US, click here.

Visit the HSLDA website dedicated to helping the Wunderlich family and other German homeschoolers here.

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