DARMSTADT, Germany — A judge in Germany has barred a family in Darmstadt from immigrating to another country where homeschooling is legal, and refused to return custody of the children to their parents.
As previously reported, approximately 20 social workers, police officers and special agents swarmed the home of Dirk and Petra Wunderlich last August and forcefully removed all their children. A family court judge had signed an order that day authorizing officials to immediately seize the Wunderlich’s children for failing to cooperate “with the authorities to send the children to [public] school.”
“I looked through a window and saw many people, police, and special agents, all armed,” Dirk outlined. “They told me they wanted to come in to speak with me. I tried to ask questions, but within seconds, three police officers brought a battering ram and were about to break the door in, so I opened it.”
In September, following a court hearing about the matter, the Wunderlich children were returned to their parents after Dirk and Petra agreed to send them to a state school. However, even after the children began attending school, they were still considered to be in the custody of the government.
Last month, attorneys for the Wunderlich family asked Judge Marcus Malkmus to return custody of the children to the parents since they have obeyed orders to send them to school. They also requested that the family be permitted to move to France, where homeschooling is legal.
In a written opinion, Malkmus refused both requests, characterizing homeschooling as a “straightjacket” for children, according to a report from the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).
“The children would grow up in a parallel society without having learned to be integrated or to have a dialogue with those who think differently and facing them in the sense of practicing tolerance,” Malkmus wrote. “[Homeschooling presents] concrete endangerment to the wellbeing of the child.”
Dirk Wunderlich expressed disappointment following the decision.
“Judge Malkmus has erected another Berlin Wall apparently designed to prevent all parents who might leave to homeschool from leaving Germany. This is no different than what happened in the former East Germany under communism and before that under the Third Reich,” he stated. “We need help from others around the world to help our country see this terrible violation of human rights.”
HSLDA advised that attorneys for the family are continuing to work toward an appeal, which could be a significantly lengthy process.
“In the interim, the Wunderlichs have committed to comply with the court’s orders,” the organization explained. “Judge Malkmus told Dirk and Petra in October that if they left the country without court approval, he would see that steps were taken to return them to Germany where they would prosecuted criminally and their family likely permanently separated.”
Another German homeschooling family, which fled to the United States six years ago after experiencing similar difficulties, is awaiting a decision regarding whether the U.S. Supreme Court will agree to hear its appeal for asylum.