DARMSTADT, Germany — Over a year after German police raided their home and seized their children, the parents of four homeschoolers have regained legal custody of their children, but remain concerned about the criminal ramifications surrounding the right to homeschool.
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.
Attorneys for the Wunderlich family asked Judge Marcus Malkmus to return custody of the children to the parents since they obeyed orders to send them to school, but 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.”
However, a state appeals court has now overturned Malkmus’ ruling, opining that it was improper for the judge to withhold legal custody from the parents.
“We have won custody and we are glad about that,” Dirk said in a report issued by HSLDA.
But he also noted that the family remains in fear as the appeals court agreed that the Wunderlich family should be prosecuted because it considers homeschooling to be a danger to the youth.
“The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate—only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead,” he said. “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,” Wunderlich continued. “Now we fear crushing fines up to $75,000 and jail. This should not be tolerated in a civilized country.”
The family originally wished to flee to France, where homeschooling is legal, but have now decided to stay in Germany and continue their fight with the help of HSLDA.
“The Wunderlichs are a good and decent family whose basic human rights were violated and are still threatened,” said Chairman Michael Ferris. “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.”