A German family that's been fighting for years for the right to homeschool is considering its options after a legal setback before the European Court of Human Rights.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that German authorities did not violate the Wunderlich family's fundamental rights when authorities forcibly removed the children from their home because they were being home-schooled.
"Homeschooling is illegal in Germany," says attorney Robert Clarke of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International, the organization representing the Wunderlich family. "It's backed up with criminal penalties."
The ordeal began in August 2013 when Clarke says 33 police officers and seven social workers surrounded the family's home.
"They were armed with a battering ram and threatened to use it if they weren't allowed in to take the children into care, and the crime that this family was accused of was simply homeschooling," he recalls. "The authorities came in and ... carried four screaming children out of the house and ... kept them in foster homes for the next three weeks, subjected them to evaluations, and eventually decided that the children were performing well.
"The parents in desperation decided, they would say, 'Okay, we'll send the children to school' – and the children were eventually returned, but under some degree of supervision."
ADF International then brought the case to the European Court of Human Rights to seek justice for what happened to them at the hands of the German state.
"After the court sided with Germany, [the Wunderlichs] have the option to go before the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights and have their case reconsidered by 17 judges," Clarke adds. "That's something that would provide them ultimately with the justice that was denied to them in Germany and the justice that was denied to them at the hands of the European Court of Human Rights."
Meanwhile, Clarke says this case should be a warning sign to Americans.
"Firstly, we live in an increasingly nationalized world," he continues. "A decision in Europe does get cited by courts in America and vice versa, and this is the highest human rights court in Europe upholding a criminal homeschooling ban in one of its member states."
Second, Clarke says the court believes it is looking out for the best interests of the child.
"Now of course that sounds great, but who gets to decide what's in the best interest of the child?" he asks. "You would think, and you would hope, [that would be] the parents who are loving their children, caring of their children, who provide the best environment for children to thrive."
Read more details about Wunderlich v. Germany