Schooled Reporting on education

Court upholds German homeschooling ban

Education | A Christian family might appeal the ruling
by Laura Edghill
Posted 1/16/19, 05:04 pm

A homeschooling family in Germany plans to appeal for an extraordinary judgment from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) after suffering a significant setback last week. A seven-judge panel of the ECHR ruled Thursday that a German law against homeschooling did not violate the fundamental rights of the Wunderlich family.

The Wunderlichs chose homeschooling for a combination of reasons, including their Christian faith. In August 2013, more than 30 police officers and seven social workers surrounded the Wunderlich home and forcibly removed their four children. After three weeks, the government sent the children home, gave the parents partial custody, and forced the family to enroll the children in public school.

After courts in Germany upheld the ban on homeschooling, the Wunderlichs appealed to the ECHR, which oversees cases related to the European Convention on Human Rights signed by Germany and other European states.

“They were hopeful,” said Robert Clarke, director of European advocacy for ADF International, Alliance Defending Freedom’s global branch, and the lead attorney representing the Wunderlichs in the case. “Unfortunately, on Thursday we saw a decision from the European Court of Human Rights which doesn’t vindicate their rights. In fact, it upholds the criminal prohibition in Germany on homeschooling.”

Dirk Wunderlich, the children’s father, called the decision disheartening and frustrating.

“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,” he said.

Most European nations permit homeschooling in some form. German officials have argued throughout the case in support of their ban, stating that allowing homeschooling would create parallel societies. Clarke pointed out that has not happened in the United States, where more than 2 million children are homeschooled.

The family is considering its options, one of which is an appeal to the Grand Chamber of the ECHR. If that happens, the case would be heard by a 17-member panel of judges, each from a different country.

“The Grand Chamber doesn’t take many cases, but it does take cases that are exceptionally interesting for different reasons,” Clarke said. He hopes the court will hear the case “because of the scale of the violation, because of the fact that this affects this family [and] there’s also others in Germany and probably many more beside who would choose to homeschool or home educate in some way, but for the fact of this law existing.”

Associated Press/Photo by Michael Hill Associated Press/Photo by Michael Hill Student Hannah Daignault, 22, at the Schenectady County Community College food pantry

Hunger on campus

A recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found “food insecurity” for college students has become a troubling national issue. The authors reviewed 31 published studies and concluded that more than a third of college students were not getting enough to eat.

The report described how campus demographics have changed over the last decade, putting traditional students—those who start college right out of high school and remain financially dependent on their parents—in the minority. Most of today’s college students instead juggle real-world responsibilities like raising families, working odd hours, and commuting. The GAO contends those competing obligations can leave low-income and first-generation students vulnerable to hunger.

While the report urged students to take advantage of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps, the authors also noted numerous ways colleges were shouldering the burden. More than 650 schools run food pantries on campus.

Churches also have joined the charge, offering free meals for college students. Some, like Oaklawn Baptist Church in Crossville, Tenn., have even gone so far as to bring the meals to campus. The church coordinates with Baptist Collegiate Ministry to serve lunches to students at nearby Roane State Community College.

“We saw such a need here,” Oaklawn Pastor David Mahan said. “Some kids are here all day.” —L.E.

Associated Press/Photo by Richard Vogel Associated Press/Photo by Richard Vogel A picket line Monday at Los Angeles High School

While teacher’s away …

Students at public schools in Los Angeles browsed the internet, watched TV, and shuffled from auditorium to auditorium under the supervision of a skeleton crew of substitutes during the first day of a teacher strike Monday.

“They’re not learning anything, and you know that,” said parent Taehyn Kim, who ended up collecting his two sons early on Monday after they complained they were just sitting around playing chess on their iPads. Like many parents, Kim plans to keep his children home during the strike.

The Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest public school district in the country, contends it made fair offers to teachers, including added staff, reduced class sizes, and a 6 percent raise over the next few years, but the United Teachers Los Angeles union walked away from the bargaining table Friday, insisting on a 6.5 percent raise paid retroactively to 2017. The district claims acquiescing to that demand would leave it financially insolvent. Officials said they are ready to negotiate at any time and are waiting for the union to return to the bargaining table.

Meanwhile, the buses are still running, lunches are being served, and students are “safe and learning,” Superintendent Austin Beutner said. But some parents dispute that last claim. The district combined classes and hired hundreds of substitute teachers to get through the strike, creating an atmosphere that parent Kathleen Whitehead described as “semi-organized chaos.” —L.E.

Laura Edghill

Laura Edghill is a freelance writer, church communications director, and public school board member living in Clinton Township, Mich., with her engineer husband and three sons. She is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute's mid-career course. Follow Laura on Twitter @LTEdghill.

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Comments

  • pilgrimflyer
    Posted: Thu, 01/17/2019 05:18 am

    And Germany wants to be the trend setter and the policy setter of the EU? We now see that their real agenda is total social control of all citizens.The Wunderlich should move to a different country more accepting of homeschooling.

  • SNelson
    Posted: Thu, 01/17/2019 11:07 am

    They tried. The United States sent them back.

  • Kris
    Posted: Tue, 01/22/2019 05:12 pm

    I believe they did move to Switzerland for a time, but the father was unable to find work.  They were also denied asylum status in the US.  My memory may be at fault, because this case has been going on for a long, long time.  Social cohesion is very important to Germany.  I think today the issue is less about Christians homeschooling, but the feared but unspoken impact the newer Muslim immigrants on the future and if they would set up a parallel school or home school system.

     

  • Parfetfamily
    Posted: Thu, 01/17/2019 11:48 am

    EU citizens can freely move between countries. I wonder if they have considered moving to France? They did try to come to the US under Obama. Perhaps they would find a better reception under the current administration...

  • Parfetfamily
    Posted: Thu, 01/17/2019 11:53 am

    LA Teachers Union has complained loudly about how charter schools have siphoned off funds which, they claim, is why the school district cannot meet the Union's pay demands. Attacks on education choice come in many forms

     

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