The Spectacle Blog

German State Seizes Homeschoolers

By on 8.30.13 | 3:28PM

Some time ago, I covered Attorney General Holder's decision to try to deny asylum to immigrant parents who homeschooled their children. Some disagreed with me. Today, reports from Germany paint a vivid picture of why Holder was wrong and why Germany has overstepped its bounds.

At 8 am yesterday morning, a team of 20 German officials, police, and social workers descended on the Wunderlich family. The Wunderlichs had decided to homeschool their children and continued to do so after Germany passed a law making homeschooling illegal. From the article:

The sole grounds for removal were that the parents, Dirk and Petra Wunderlich, continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were taken to unknown locations. Officials ominously promised the parents that they would not be seeing their children “anytime soon.”

HSLDA obtained and translated the court documents that authorized this use of force to seize the children. The only legal grounds for removal were the family’s continuation of homeschooling their children. The papers contain no other allegations of abuse or neglect. Moreover, Germany has not even alleged educational neglect for failing to provide an adequate education. The law ignores the educational progress of the child; attendance—and not learning—is the object of the German law.

Judge Koenig, a Darmstadt family court judge, signed the order on August 28 authorizing the immediate seizure of Dirk and Petra Wunderlich’s children. Citing the parents’ failure to cooperate “with the authorities to send the children to school,” the judge also authorized the use of force “against the children” if necessary, reasoning that such force might be required because the children had “adopted the parents’ opinions” regarding homeschooling and that “no cooperation could be expected” from either the parents or the children.

The children are now effectively property of the state. How can Germany be considered a true democratic government when the liberties of parents and children are being consumed by their government? But it doesn't end there:

Over the past four years, HSLDA has reported on the Wunderlichs’ saga as they have moved from country to country in the European Union looking for a place to call home where they could freely homeschool their children. Although they found refuge from homeschool persecution, Mr. Wunderlich was unable to find work, and last year the family had to return to Germany.

The family resettled near Darmstadt, just 25 miles south of Frankfurt, with some trepidation. It is mandatory that all residents of Germany register with their local municipal authorities. Within days of the family registering their presence in the town, authorities initiated a criminal truancy case, and just months later the “Youth Welfare Office” was granted legal custody of the children. However, the court left the children in the residence with the parents since they were being well treated and otherwise cared for by their parents.

Authorities even took the children’s passports, making it impossible for the family to escape—a violation of a number of human rights guaranteed to them by the European Convention of Human Rights, said HSLDA Chairman and Founder Michael Farris.

If it is true that Germany has taken these children's passports and restricted their freedom of movement, there should be outrage. Taking custody of someone's children, for no other reason than to prevent them from being homeschooled, and then refusing that family the right to leave, is a human rights violation. Circumstance forced this family back to Germany, but they should not be imprisoned within German borders now that it is clear they cannot stay.

This is why Holder's fight against asylum for the Romeikes earlier this year is so troubling. The U.S. is in effect saying that children who are homeschooled by their parents in Germany can become property of the German state. This is unacceptable to those who value liberty within the family structure. We should immediately adopt a policy of asylum for those who choose to homeschool their children. It is a distinct parental right to decide the education of one's children, and should be recognized by our government.

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