Skip to content

German home-schoolers appeal to top European court

Wunderlich family brings case that could affect parental rights across Europe to highest level of European Court of Human Rights
When the Government Targets You for Homeschooling Your Kids

STRASBOURG, France – A German home schooling family Tuesday asked the European Court of Human Rights to refer their case to the Grand Chamber, the court’s highest level. Earlier this year, a lower section of the court ruled that their rights had not been violated in 2013 when more than 30 police officers and social workers raided their home and forcefully removed the children from their parents because they were home schooling.

“Despite the right of parents to direct the education of their children being protected in international law, the court ruled that the dawn raid on the family home was neither ‘particularly harsh (nor) exceptional,’” said ADF International Director of European Advocacy Robert Clarke, lead counsel for the Wunderlichs. “We will continue to support the Wunderlich family as they seek affirmation of their rights at the highest level of the European Court of Human Rights.”

In January, the court’s Fifth Section handed down its judgment in the case of Wunderlich v. Germany. Since then, the family has been embroiled in legal struggles seeking redress for the violation of their rights.

After courts in Germany ruled in favor of the government, the European Court of Human Rights agreed to take up the case in August 2016. The court ruled against the German family, disregarding their guaranteed right to private family life. Only a few weeks after the ruling, a German judge requested proof of the children’s school attendance despite the European Court’s acknowledgment that it would not be appropriate to remove the children again as “it would have a greater impact on the children than being home-schooled by their parents.” With this, the family potentially face yet even more legal proceedings.

“The Fifth Section’s ruling ignored the fact that Germany’s policy on home schooling violates the rights of parents to educate their children and direct their upbringing,” said ADF International Executive Director Paul Coleman. “It is alarming to see that the most influential human rights court in Europe didn’t recognize this. The ruling is a step in the wrong direction and should concern anyone who cares about freedom.”

“The previous ruling was very disheartening for our family and the many families affected by this in Germany,” said Dirk Wunderlich, father of the four children. “After years of legal struggles, it was extremely frustrating for us and our children. It is upsetting that the European Court of Human Rights did not recognize the injustices we suffered at the hands of the German authorities. We are hopeful that the Grand Chamber will see the ways we tried, for many years, to engage with the authorities, and the completely disproportionate action they ultimately took.”

“The European Court of Human Rights must do the right thing to protect families,” explained Mike Donnelly, international home schooling expert and director of global outreach for the Home School Legal Defense Association, which has long supported the family in their legal battle. “It is unconscionable that a human rights court would justify taking children by force from their family for no reason other than home schooling. Home schooling is a fundamental right of parents that is clearly recognized in international human rights law, which all governments are obliged to respect and protect.”

  • Pronunciation guide: Wunderlich (VUHN’-der-lish)

ADF International is a faith-based legal advocacy organization that protects fundamental freedoms and promotes the inherent dignity of all people.

# # # | Ref. 43406