In a decision last week, the European Court of Human Rights has undermined its claim to being the “conscience of Europe” and pitted parents against children.
'The Wunderlich family wanted to do what thousands of families in America do with no questions asked: educate their children at home.
But homeschooling is not allowed in Germany, and the state has relentlessly pursued the Wunderlichs and even seized their children. One morning in August 2013, 33 police officers and seven social workers showed up at their front door, threatening to open it with a battering ram. The parents cried as their children were carried screaming out of their home.
The children were later returned but were ordered to attend public school. Since then, the Wunderlichs have continued their fight in court, ultimately reaching the European Court of Human Rights.
Last week, they lost their case. The court sided with Germany, reaffirming that Germany’s ban on homeschooling does not violate the family’s rights under international law.
I represent the Wunderlich parents. The question I most commonly get from people when I explain their case is, “But what’s so bad about school?”
I understand where they’re coming from. I went through a state school system and, generally speaking, didn’t mind it. But the fact that I did not “mind” school and the fact that the person asking the question doesn’t see any problems with state-run school, misses what this case is about.
The Wunderlichs’ case was never about whether state-run schools are good or bad but about who has the right and the responsibility to raise children.
Education Belongs to Parents, Not the State
Parents are the natural nurturers of children. They create children, provide for them, and make a whole host of judgments about how they will raise them. Education is just one of those areas of parental judgment.
It’s hard to imagine many decisions bigger than where your child will go to school. Indeed, in my country, parents literally sell homes and move to the other side of the same street to get into a particular school’s zone in order to make the educational choice they want.
Dirk and Petra Wunderlich wanted that same freedom. For a combination of religious, philosophical, and practical reasons, they decided they wanted to educate their children at home.
And they are not alone. Millions of other parents have decided to homeschool their children, too. In fact, homeschooling is growing in many parts of the world, and statistics from the US estimate that more than two million American children are homeschooled. This right is protected by every major human rights treaty that exists. Major documents like the European Convention on Human Rights protect the right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children.'
Read more: Police Seized My Clients' Children Because They Homeschooled. Last Week a Court Ruled It Was OK