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November 3, 2012 permalink
The Wunderlich family fled Germany to practice homeschooling, but returned to Germany after two years of inability to earn a living abroad. Now Germany has transferred their parental rights to the Jugendamt.
Judge: Homeschooling “Damages” Kids
Parents Lose Custody of Children for Sake of “Integration”
Arguing that homeschooling damages children and is an abuse of parental authority, a German district court in Darmstadt transferred the custody rights of Dirk and Petra Wunderlich’s four children to the Jugendamt, Germany’s child protective agency.
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 insure that children are socialized in state-approved public or private schools.
The Wunderlichs returned to Germany after years of seeking a home in almost half a dozen other European countries. HSLDA wrote about the family when they were snatched by French social workers in 2009 over homeschooling. The children were returned shortly after.
Wunderlich explained: “When she returned our children, the French judge told us: ‘You can homeschool here, that is your good right.’ ”
Dirk Wunderlich, a gardener, has sent scores of job applications looking for work. He has moved his family to several European countries including France, Norway and Hungary in search of a place to live and work peacefully and to homeschool. However, after no success in finding work outside Germany, the family was forced to return to their home in Hessen, Germany.
“We lived abroad for years and found acceptance in a number of other countries. The French were especially nice and tolerant of our homeschooling,” Wunderlich said. “But there just wasn’t any work to be had, so after moving to Norway and even Hungary, we have come back to Germany. We hoped we could homeschool without being found out. But neighbors turned us in after just a few months. I requested to meet with the school to get them to permit us to homeschool but they rejected our request for a meeting.”
Hessen is where Juergen and Rosemary Dudek have struggled with the courts for years, most recently losing a trial court decision. The Dudeks are waiting to hear from Germany’s constitutional court on another case that could decide whether Hessen’s laws that criminally convict homeschoolers are too vague. Although the threat of a custody action hangs over the Dudeks, who have met with their local Jugendamt office, to this point in their case custody rights have not been an official issue. Dudek hosts a blog for freedom of education , Der Blaue Brief, and has written about the Wunderlich family.
For the Wunderlichs, however, the news that their custody rights had been transferred was devastating. Because of the court’s transfer of custody to the government the Wunderlichs are effectively imprisoned in Germany since they cannot take their children out of the country without permission.
“We don’t have passports, and even if we did, we could not leave,” Dirk says. “Our children are now under the control of the state. We can’t leave without the state’s permission.”
A letter from the Jugendamt after the judgment informed the family that immediate removal of the children would not occur. However, Dirk Wunderlich believes that this will be the inevitable result:
“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. We are very saddened by the way our country treats us. Our nerves are black and short, and we are very tired by the pressure. I don’t understand my own country. What are we doing wrong? We are just doing what should be allowed to anyone.”
Wunderlich contacted HSLDA Director for International Relations Michael Donnelly about the situation.
“This points out the need for a legislative solution in Germany for homeschooling,” Donnelly said. Germany’s highest courts have made it virtually impossible for people to legally homeschool. “Homeschooling is a legitimate form of education—Germany’s oppression of people who do it violates their obligation to protect their citizen’s most basic human rights.”
Donnelly said that Germany’s laws deter 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. 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.”
Wunderlich is 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,” he said. “We need help from others. I have asked HSLDA to inform the UN special rapporteur on education. We have no choice but to fight, because we feel it is our duty to homeschool our children.
Hope for Global Change
A global conference on freedom for home educators will be held in November. Donnelly along with other organizers of the conference hope it may help.
“Berlin is at the center of Europe and the center of oppression against home educating families,” said 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.”
Addendum: The four children were seized in a raid on August 29, 2013.
HOME SCHOOLING / INTERNATIONAL Germany
Children Seized in Shocking Raid
At 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, August 29, 2013, in what has been called a “brutal and vicious act,” a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, forcibly removing all four of the family’s children (ages 7-14). 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.
In October 2012, state youth officials had been granted formal legal custody of the Wunderlich children by a German court based solely on the fact that the family was homeschooling. German lawyer Andreas Vogt sought appellate relief on behalf of the Wunderlichs and was able to forestall immediate removal of the children. But, yesterday, as the family quietly began their homeschool day, a ringing at the door signaled the interruption that turned their lives upside down.
Dirk Wunderlich described the frightening turn of events.
“I looked through a window and saw many people, police, and special agents, all armed. 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,” he told HSLDA.
“The police shoved me into a chair and wouldn’t let me even make a phone call at first,” he said. “It was chaotic as they told me they had an order to take the children. At my slightest movement the agents would grab me, as if I were a terrorist. You would never expect anything like this to happen in our calm, peaceful village. It was like a scene out of a science fiction movie. Our neighbors and children have been traumatized by this invasion.”
Looking for a Home
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 (see also: “Come Peacefully Now or by Force Later”).
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.
“The right to homeschool is a human right,” said Farris. “So is the right to freely move and to leave a country. Germany has grossly violated these rights of this family. This latest act of seizing these four beautiful, innocent children is an outrageous act of a rogue nation.”
The right of parents to decide how children are educated is a human right of the highest order, said Farris.
“The United States Constitution is not alone in upholding the right of parents to decide how to educate their children. Germany is a party to numerous human rights treaties that recognize the right of parents to provide an education distinct from the public schools that so that children may be educated according to the parents’ religious convictions. Germany has simply not met its obligations under these treaties or as a liberal democracy,” Farris said. “HSLDA and I will do whatever we can to help this family regain custody of their children and ensure that they are safe from this persecution. This case demonstrates conclusively why the Romeike asylum case is so important. Families in Germany need a safe place where they can educate their children in peace.”
Following the raid, Dirk Wunderlich told HSLDA Director for International Affairs Mike Donnelly that he and his wife were devastated.
“These are broken people,” Donnelly said. “They said they felt like they were being ground into dust. They were shaken to their core and shocked by the event. But they also told me that they had followed their conscience and the dictates of their faith. Although they don’t have much faith in the German state—they have a lot of faith in God. They are an inspiring and courageous family.”
“I’ve been fighting for German homeschool freedom for years,” he continued, “and I had hoped that things were changing in Germany since it has been some time since brutality of this magnitude has occurred. But I was wrong.”
“Mike Farris and I spent time with the Wunderlichs at the first global homeschool conference in Berlin in November 2012,” Donnelly went on to say. “They are a delightful family with precious children. They are really just regular people who are doing what millions of people here in the United States do every day.”
“My question to the political leadership of Germany is: How long will you permit these kinds of brutal acts to be perpetrated against German families?” said Donnelly. “Why is it so important to you to force people into your state schools? The echo of this act rings from a darker time in German history. When will leaders stand up and make changes so that brutality to children like the Wunderlichs no longer happens because of homeschooling? Isn’t there any German statesman willing to stand up for what is right anywhere in Germany?”
Wunderlich said that his 14-year-old daughter Machsejah had to be forcibly taken out of the home.
“When I went outside, our neighbor was crying as she watched. I turned around to see my daughter being escorted as if she were a criminal by two big policemen. They weren’t being nice at all. When my wife tried to give my daughter a kiss and a hug goodbye, one of the special agents roughly elbowed her out of the way and said—‘It’s too late for that.’ What kind of government acts like this?”
After the children were taken away, the family was “invited” to a meeting with the senior social authority in charge at the scene, Mr. Behnis. The Wunderlichs agreed to the meeting and were joined by their attorney, Andreas Vogt, who came as soon as he was notified, traveling hours by train.
When the parents asked when they could seek a hearing to contest the seizure of their children, they were told they would have to wait until the regular judge returned from vacation. Vogt told HSLDA that the authorities had displayed little sympathy. Vogt has become a key lawyer in the German homeschool movement, representing many active cases. He has taken some to the German Supreme Court with no success to date.
Petra Wunderlich said her heart was shattered.
“We are empty. We need help. We are fighting, but we need help,” she said.
You can support our fight for the Wunderlich family by donating to the Homeschool Freedom Fund.
Addendum: A month later the children are back with their parents, but only after they agreed to send the children to a German school. Prosecutors want the parents in another homeschooling family jailed.
Prosecutor wants jail for homeschooling parents
Adviser says national policy targets families with persecution
Just as a German family has been reunited after the children were seized in a SWAT-style police raid because they were homeschooled, a prosecutor in another case is demanding six-month jail terms for parents who want to educate their children.
WND reported Aug. 30 that four children of Dirk and Petra Wunderlich, ages 7-14, forcibly were taken by a team of about 20 armed law enforcement officers from their home just as their homeschool classes were beginning.
The shocking raid was made solely because the parents were providing their children’s education, according to the Home School Legal Defense Association, the world’s premiere advocate for homeschooling.
The organization noted the paperwork that authorized police officers and social workers to use force on the children contained no claims of mistreatment.
HSLDA officials confirmed Thursday to WND that the children were reunited with their parents after the family, given “no choice,” agreed to send the children to a government-approved education program
“We are glad the children are home where they belong,” HSDLA Director of International Relations Michael Donnelly told WND. “They should never have been taken. We will continue to support the family until complete custody is restored and they are permitted to homeschool in peace – either in Germany or elsewhere.”
But he said Germany’s alarming treatment of homeschoolers has surfaced in another case.
“We are gravely concerned about the case of Thomas and Marit Schaum, a family who face criminal charges over homeschooling. The prosecutor is demanding the parents each go to jail for six months,” he said.
“Germany’s national policy of persecuting homeschooling families must stop and we plan to continue the fight for freedom and for the rights of thousands of others in Germany and around the world to homeschool their children.”
HSLDA said the Schaums live just a few hours north of the Wunderlichs, in Hulsa, Hessen.
The Schaums “are homeschooling parents of nine children and have homeschooled for many years in spite of persistent pressure from authorities. They have been engaged in court proceedings for some time and are now being threatened by Prosecutor Joachim Schnitzer Ling with unprecedented six-month long jail terms.”
Previously, the longest jail terms handed down to homeschoolers in Germany were the three-months sentences for Juergen and Rosemary Dudek.
Their jail sentences, however, were overturned and replaced with a fine, although their criminal convictions remain on the record.
“The Schaums have successfully resisted the demands of the state and retained custody of their children,” HSLDA said. “Four have graduated and are all successful in various fields of work and study. According to those close to the family, the social workers involved with the Schaum family have not taken drastic steps, like those in the Wunderlich case, but have instead allowed the school authorities to seek redress through the courts.
HSLDA said the Schaums were convicted and fined, but their attorney Andreas Vogt is appealing. Vogt represents about a dozen homeschooling families in Germany.
The Wunderlich children were restored to their parents after the family agreed to have the children submit to government teachings. A hearing was scheduled on Thursday, and a rally in support of the family was planned.
Dirk Wunderlich told HSLDA the family was allowed a visit beforehand.
“We were very happy to see them, and they us. Our children have been fairly treated. While we do not agree that we should be forced to send our children to school, we have been unfairly treated and our children traumatized. We feel we have no choice but to agree to the local authority’s wishes and plan to comply and will work with them as we send our children to school. What is most important to us is to have our children back home.”
His wife, Petra, said, “We are greatly encouraged by the emails and support of our fellow homeschoolers around the world.”
Donnelly said he sees a sliver of hope in the developing situations.
“I see progress in our strategy to draw attention to this issue. We would much prefer that the authorities did not pursue such cruel measures like taking the Wunderlich children and wanting to send the Schaums to jail for six months. But these outrageous behaviors draw attention to the need for real reform in Germany. Mainstream German media is finally beginning to take notice. My hope is that as the media reports on what is being done to these really good families, politicians and the general public will change their attitudes and figure out a way to allow parents to have this option,” he said.
The Wunderlich case drew a dozen lawyers from all over Europe to a meeting in Frankfurt to discuss ways to raise awareness, including Roger Kiska of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which also has been integral in a number of homeschooling cases.
“The right of parents to homeschool should be respected and ADF is committed to working along with HSLDA and others to protect this important freedom from being marginalized,” he said. “We have a variety of international tribunals we can look to besides the European Court of Human Rights which has been very antagonistic to homeschoolers and parental rights in general.
“The act of these local authorities to take the Wunderlich children is unconscionable and those responsible must be held to account,” he said.
Donnelly said there is “no doubt that we are getting the attention of the German government.”
“One HSLDA member told us that a special number has been set up by the embassy for calls about the Wunderlichs,” he said. “Another person reported that staff members at consulates have been inundated with calls about the situation. We are hopeful that this public pressure will result in policy changes.”
WND reported that after the raid, hundreds of comments critical of the government’s move were posted on a variety of websites, including the Facebook page for the German embassy in Washington.
A Facebook page called “Free the Wunderlich Kids now” also was created.
HSLDA said that when a nation has voluntarily signed up to obey international human rights obligations, the international community has the right to call such a nation to account for violating human rights standards.
The organization’s statement continued: “This is especially true when the offending nation is Germany. Modern human rights law was created in response to Nazi Germany. And when Germany today uses a law from that era to persecute families who do not want to send their children to the public schools to be indoctrinated by the government, it is the right and duty of every nation on earth to say: Germany keep your promises. Stop abusing the human rights of your citizens.”
The statement said “It is settled beyond dispute that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948 by the unanimous vote of the UN General Assembly arose, ‘out of the desire to respond forcefully to the evils perpetrated by [National Socialists in] Germany.’ The UDHR’s view regarding parents and children is no exception to this rule. Article 26(3) of the UDHR proclaims: ‘Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.’ Numerous human rights instruments have been drafted in reaction to ‘the intrusion of the fascist state into the family’ with its goal of seeking ‘to alienate children from their parents for the purpose of political indoctrination.”
Germany’s homeschooling ban dates to the Hitler era, but the current German government has endorsed it fully. In 2003, the German Supreme Court handed down the Konrad decision in which “religiously or philosophically motivated” homeschooling was banned.
Four years later, the German Federal Parliament changed a key provision of German child protection law, making it easier for children to be taken away from their parents for supposed “educational neglect.” In that same year, the case of Katerina Plett, a homeschooling mother who moved with her children to Austria while her husband maintained the family residence in Germany, made its way to the highest criminal court in Germany.
That ruling said “the general public has an interest in thwarting the development of religiously or motivated parallel societies” and “integrating minorities in that regard.”
The court, stunningly, said homeschooling was a form of “child endangerment,” so authorities were justified in using force to take children.
Michael Farris, HSLDA founder, said although the case is in Germany, others should be concerned.
“I want the American homeschool community and other friends of liberty to take note – this mindset isn’t limited to Germany. Many U.S. policymakers and academics agree. … They are even working to see them realized here. So far, thankfully, homeschooling isn’t a legitimate reason (anymore) for the government to kidnap your children if they don’t go to state approved schools,” Farris said.
Donnelly said there are “already too many voices in the United States that want to advance the idea that the state must control education for the safety of the state or other reasons.”
“And this is the same rationale of the German government in perpetrating deplorable acts like this,” he said. “Why should we think it couldn’t or won’t happen here?”
Donnelly asked further: “Can’t a government that can order you to get health care tell you that you don’t qualify for certain life-saving treatments, tell parents they can’t allow their children to get certain kinds of counseling or that they must have a particular kind of medical treatments or that certain religious speech is intolerant and may not be permitted or must be punished, or that only national curricular standards are acceptable for all children, etc. – can’t a government like that order you to send your children to school? And then punish you if you don’t?”
Another German family, the Romeikes, sought and obtained asylum in the United States because of German persecution over their homeschool, but the Obama administration appealed and obtained an order from a higher court that the family must return to Germany. It’s now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Obama administration has argued in court parents essentially have no right to determine how and what their children are taught, leaving the authority with the government.
See a report on the Romeikes:
It was in 1937 when Adolf Hitler said: “The youth of today is ever the people of tomorrow. For this reason we have set before ourselves the task of inoculating our youth with the spirit of this community of the people at a very early age, at an age when human beings are still unperverted and therefore unspoiled. This Reich stands, and it is building itself up for the future, upon its youth. And this new Reich will give its youth to no one, but will itself take youth and give to youth its own education and its own upbringing.”
Source: World Net Daily