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Homeschool parents who faced battering ram back in court

Bob Unruh/WND

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May 9, 2015

The Wunderlich family, with Michael Farris of the HSLDA.

The German homeschool parents who faced a SWAT team’s battering ram when police demanded to take their children into custody for being homeschooled are back in court.

This time, they face the possibility of four-year jail terms from a judge who has warned, “The law is the law.”

WND reported in 2013 when the government took custody of the children of Dirk and Petra Wunderlich, then ages 7-14, from their Darmstadt, Germany, home.

The SWAT team, authorized by a judge to use force if necessary, took the children and told the Wunderlichs they wouldn’t see them again soon because they were violating federal law by homeschooling.

Although there was no claim the children were being mistreated, a team of 20 social workers, police and special agents stormed the family’s home. The Home School Legal Defense Association reported at the time that Judge Koenig of the Darmstadt family court signed the order authorizing the immediate seizure of the children by force.

“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’ … 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,” HSLDA said at the time.

The “Indoctrination” book and DVD bundle, explains why a growing number of parents are choosing not to send their children to public schools.

Dirk Wunderlich told the homeschool group: “I looked through a side 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.”

It was weeks before the children returned home. A year later, an appeals court decided both social workers and parents should be criticized, but the action against the children was “disproportional” to the allegations. The decision returned custody of the children to their parents.

“We have won custody, and we are glad about that,” Dirk Wunderlich said then. “The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate – only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead. But this decision upholds the absurd idea that homeschooling is child endangerment and an abuse of parental authority.”

Now a report from HSLDA says the next time the Wunderlichs appear in court for homeschooling, they could each face four years in prison.

“We had hoped the judge, who seemed open-minded and friendly, might give us a chance,” Dirk Wunderlich told the organization. “But no, he said he could not: The law is the law.”

The parents each were fined about $1,000 during their recent court appearance.

Dirk described how the family even tried to move away.

“We wandered around Europe for years looking for a place where we could live peacefully and raise our children without this pressure,” he told HSLDA. “But we had to come back here. It isn’t easy to get jobs in other countries always. And besides, this is our home. We are Germans. Why should we have to leave our country to do home education?

“With the help of HSLDA and with the prayers of our friends and supporters, we will go forward,” he said. “This is not right, and we must stand up against this injustice. The state cannot be allowed to dictate to parents how children are educated. Homeschooling must be fought for.”

The German Supreme Court has already rejected all appeals by the Wunderlichs. And in November 2014, the court reaffirmed in a separate case that Germany has an equal interest with parents in the raising of children.

Michael Donnelly, HSLDA’s director of global outreach, was outraged.

“Four years in prison? For homeschooling?” Donnelly said. “German courts seem incapable of recognizing what most democratic countries understand – that parents, not the state, should decide how to educate their children. Home education is and ought to be a legal and valid alternative in Germany, just like it is in most European countries. Instead, German courts come down on the side of violating parental rights. It’s a terrible decision.”

Donnelly said the notion that homeschooling threatens democracy is backwards.

“What really threatens democracy,” he said, “is when the German authorities try to stamp out ‘parallel societies.’

“In a pluralistic democracy there must be acceptance for families who have different ideas about how to educate their children. Home education has proven its value to the point where a complete ban ought to be an obvious violation of human rights. So no, we don’t plan to stop fighting for these families.”

HSLDA, meanwhile, is urging Congress to support a plan that would allow homeschool families facing persecution to move to the United States for protection.

German homeschool families are being targeted with a Nazi-era law that never was overturned.

It was 1938 when a law was adopted under Adolf Hitler’s leadership that eliminated exemptions for homeschoolers to compulsory education laws.

Just a year before, Hitler himself 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.”

Homeschooling has been banned in Germany since then. WND has reported over the years on a German teen who was ordered into a psychiatric ward for being homeschooled and parents who were sentenced to jail terms for homeschooling their children.

The current German government has endorsed Hitler’s view of homeschooling. 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.”


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