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Home-schooled Christian family in Germany asked for proof of school attendance

by Cara Bentley

The family judge who ordered the removal of the Wunderlich children from their home in 2013 has now requested proof of the children's school attendance.

Home-schooling is illegal in Germany and it was decided in January at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that moving the four children for three weeks to a children's home was legal.

Dirk and Petra Wunderlich wanted to educate their four children at home so they could teach the Christian faith freely. The local family court took the view though that their non-attendance at school prevented them from being part of the community and learning social skills such as tolerance, assertiveness and 'the ability to assert their own convictions against majority-held views'.

There were also fears that none of the kids were involved in any sports or music clubs and that they were living in a 'symbiotic' family where there were no other influences other than parental.

In August 2013, 33 police officers and seven youth welfare officers came into the home of the Wunderlich family near Darmstadt and took the four children, aged seven to 14 away

The authorities' actions (not the legality of home schooling) were debated at the ECHR and it was decided the family's right to privacy and a family life had not been violated.

A later assessment in 2014 established that the children were not being kept away from school against their will and that their knowledge level was 'not alarming'.

In addition, although permanent removal of the children was accepted as being the only way to ensure school attendance, the Court of Appeal held that it was no longer proportionate as it would have a greater impact on the children than being educated at home by their parents.

At the same time it emphasised that their decision should not be seen as granting permission to home school. They also added that the prohibition of home schooling in Germany was the 'underlying issue'.

The Court held that the authorities' actions were carried out with the aim of protecting the best interests of the children

In this recent development of a call for checks on their school attendance, religious freedom charity Alliance Defending Freedom have expressed concern that the authorities have ignored the comments about the children having adequate knowledge from their home schooling.

Robert Clarke, Director of European Advocacy for ADF International and lead counsel for the Wunderlich family said: "The right of parents to direct the education of their children is a fundamental right, protected in international law.

"The Wunderlich family has experienced significant turmoil at the hands of the German authorities. In the end, the children were assessed as doing well. It is hard to understand why the German authorities persist in challenging the custody of the children.

"Why would anyone be interested in removing the children from their loving family home after German courts and even the European Court of Human Rights acknowledged that 'the learning assessment had shown that the knowledge level of the children was not alarming and that the children were not being kept from school against their will".

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