Arguing that homeschooling is an abuse of parental authority and that it damages children, a German district court in Darmstadt transferred the custody rights of Dirk and Petra Wunderlich’s four children to the Juhendamt, Germany’s child protective agency.
“Our nerves are black and short, and we are very tired by the pressure,” Wunderlich described. “I don’t understand my own country. I received a letter from the Jugendamt in which they told me that they do not wish to enforce court’s decision by doing terrible things such as taking the children away from us. But they told me that the children must go to school. What are we doing wrong? We are just doing what should be allowed to anyone.”
Michael Donnelly, Director for International Relations at the Home School Legal Defense Association, expounds on the realization that Germany’s laws discourage thousands of its citizens from home education:
“There are thousands of German families who would homeschool if they could without risking the custody of their children. Hundreds do today but face the constant threat of persecution,” explained Donnelly. “It is unacceptable that a country like Germany would treat parents like this. State legislators in Germany need to act in the face of this crisis. Germany has a leadership role in the world, and its behavior in this area does not measure up to its otherwise fine reputation. In the area of educational freedom Germany is grossly derelict and oppressive.”
After years of seeking a place to homeschool and live peacefully in over half a dozen European countries (including France, Norway and Hungary), the Wunderlich’s were forced to return to their home in Hessen, Germany. With an occupation as a gardener, Dirk Wunderlich has sent scores of job applications in hopes of finding work.
In his ruling, Judge Markus Malkmus followed the case law of the two high court cases on the subject of homeschooling, Konrad and Paul Plett. The district court ruled that the general public has an interest in counteracting the development of parallel societies and that religious or ethnic minorities must be “integrated” through schools. The judge also stated that the academic competency of the children was irrelevant because it is the state’s responsibility to ensure that children are socialized in state-approved public or private schools.
The news that the Wunderlich’s custody rights had been transferred devastated them. Dirk and Petra Wunderlich are now looking for international support and help.
“I am just one person, and I cannot fight against the power of the state even though I must for my children’s sake,” Dirk Wunderlich said.
A global conference on freedom for home educators will be held in November. Mike Donnelly, along with other organizers of the conference pray the Global Home Education Conference will bring help and awareness to the plight of the Wunderlich’s and many other families around the world in that are facing the same predicament.
“Berlin is at the center of Europe and the center of oppression against home educating families,” emphasized Donnelly. “We hope that Germany policy makers will join others from around the world to examine the issue and hear the presentations from noted academics and human rights attorneys. Policy makers are welcomed at the conference and receive a free registration.”
Will you stand along side Dirk and Petra Wunderlich?
Photo Credit: Photo 1: Dirk Wunderlich and his four Children, Photo 2: Mrs. Wunderlich and her youngest daughter.