STRASBOURG, France — The European Court of Human Rights is set to hear the case of a German family that was forced to send their children to public school after they were seized by the government because they were homeschooled.
“I sincerely hope the European Court of Human Rights will reaffirm that the state has no right to abduct children from their family just because they are being homeschooled,” father Dirk Wunderlich said in a statement this week.
“Our youngest daughter was only four years old when the authorities broke into our home and took the children without warning. She could not stop crying for 11 days. Her older sister has not laughed since this incident,” he explained. “We chose to educate our children at home, because we believe this to be the best environment for them to learn and thrive.”
As previously reported, in 2013, approximately 20 social workers, police officers and special agents swarmed the Wunderlich home 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,” Wunderlich recalled. “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.”
A month later, following a court hearing about the matter, the Wunderlich children were returned to their parents after it was agreed to send them to a state school. However, they were still considered to be in the custody of the government as Judge Marcus Malkmus characterized homeschooling as a “straightjacket” for children.
“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.”
An appeals court later overturned the ruling, opining that it was improper for the judge to withhold legal custody from the parents.
But as Germany continues to consider homeschooling a criminal act, and as the Wunderlich family remains uncertain about its legal situation, it took its case to the European Court of Human Rights. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International is representing the family and submitted its written argument for consideration on Thursday.
“Petra and Dirk Wunderlich simply exercised their parental right to raise their children in line with their philosophical and religious convictions—something they believe they can do better in the home environment,” Robert Clarke with ADF’s Vienna, Austria office said in a statement.
“The right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children is a fundamental right protected in all of the major human rights treaties. Germany has signed on to these treaties and yet continues to ignore its obligations with devastating consequences,” he lamented.
The Wunderlich’s had considered moving to France where homeschooling is legal, but decided to stay and fight for their rights.