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German home-schoolers consider appeal after human rights court decision

European Court of Human Rights rules against Wunderlich family, who may appeal to Grand Chamber
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STRASBOURG, France – The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that German authorities did not violate a family’s fundamental rights when they forcibly removed the children from the family’s home because they were being home-schooled and left their legal status in limbo after returning them.

“We are extremely disappointed with this ruling, which disregards the rights of parents all over Europe to raise their children without disproportionate interference from the government,” said ADF International Director of European Advocacy Robert Clarke, lead counsel for the Wunderlich family. “Petra and Dirk Wunderlich simply wanted to educate their children consistent with their convictions and decided their home environment would be the best place for this. Children deserve this loving care from their parents. We are now advising the Wunderlichs of their options, including taking the case to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.”

In August 2013, more than 30 police officers and social workers stormed the home of the Wunderlich family. The authorities brutally removed the children from their parents and their home, leaving the family traumatized. The children were ultimately returned to their parents, but their legal status remained unclear as Germany is one of the few European countries that penalizes families who want to home-school.

After courts in Germany ruled in favor of the government, the European Court of Human Rights agreed to take up the case, Wunderlich v. Germany, in August 2016. The court’s ruling against the German family, which disregards their right to private family life, leaves the family with the option of bringing their case to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, the highest level of the court.

“It is a very disheartening day for our family and the many families affected by this in Germany,” said Dirk Wunderlich, the father of the children. “After years of legal struggles, this is extremely frustrating for us and our children. It is upsetting that the European Court of Human Rights has not recognized the injustices we have suffered at the hands of the German authorities.”

“This ruling ignores 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 this was not recognized by the most influential human rights court in Europe. This ruling is a step in the wrong direction and should concern anyone who cares about freedom.”

“This judgment is a huge setback, but we will not give up the fight to protect the fundamental right of parents to home-school their children in Germany and across Europe,” said Home School Legal Defense Association Director of Global Outreach Mike Donnelly, an international home schooling expert. HSLDA has long supported the family in its legal battle.

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

ADF International is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.


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