Five children taken into state custody by police in Germany will remain under supervision of government agents because their parents provide homeschool education, according to the Home School Legal Defense Association.
The organization, the world’s premiere homeschooling advocacy group, has worked on a number of cases in Germany in the last few years, including a court imposed three-month prison terms on a homeschooling mom and dad.
In the latest case, officials said members of the Gorber family spent much of the day in German Family Court hearings only to learn the judge ordered the state to retain custody of five children, releasing only a 3-year-old back into his parents custody. The parents were ordered to be evaluated by a psychologist.
The six children had been taken by police in a surprise raid on the family’s home in January. The HSLDA report said officers from the government’s youth welfare services and police surrounded the family’s home while the father was visiting his wife in a hospital, where she had gone with pregnancy complications.
Two children ages 21 and 20 were not taken into custody, but all younger siblings were, the report said.
“The siblings reported that the 7-year-old was gripped around the waist by a youth home music teacher, dragged kicking and screaming across the courtyard and thrown into a van. The terrified 3-year-old clung to his 20-year-old sister so tightly that even the police and Jugendamt (youth welfare agency) could not separate them. Both had to be taken to the youth home, where at last the little fellow’s strength gave out and he could be taken into custody,” the HSLDA report said.
The children were determined to be “normal and well-functioning” following psychological exams, but the judge still ruled the state should continue custody.
Mike Donnelly, a homeschooling expert with the HSLDA, traveled recently to Germany to meet with the family and several others under government attack for homeschooling.
“This poor, simple family is being crushed by unbearable pressure from the German state’s police power, primarily because they are homeschoolers,” Donnelly said. “This father of nine, a woodworker, told me how difficult this is and the incredible strain it’s placing on his children, his wife and himself.”
He confirmed it is part of a larger problem of persecution of homeschoolers in Germany.
“It’s very disturbing that Germany can get away with this kind of behavior with such little public comment by other Western governments,” he said.
Still, opposition to Germany’s heavy-handedness is starting to grow, HSLDA said. A recent German newspaper report said incidences of children removed from their homes were up 12.5 percent this year, even though the number of abused children remained the same.
Kathy Sinnott, a European parliament member from Ireland, has criticized Germany’s actions, saying government action “forces families to choose between a job and the best interests of the children.” A member of the SPD party in Bavaria also recently told a radio interviewer, “Imprisonment or fines in this matter are absolutely excessive in my opinion, because homeschooling can provide very high-quality outcomes.”
Until recently, homeschooling families mostly have been forced to pay fines, but this year, as WND reported, Rosemarie and Jeurgen Dudek of Archfeldt each were given three months in prison for homeschooling. Their case is on appeal now.
The HSLDA report said part of the problem is that for-profit child foster homes are part of the team that makes decisions to take custody of children from parents.
The German federal government also has created a new law making it easier for children to be removed from their homes if officials call them “endangered,” a term that has no official definition.
Joerg Grosseleumern, a spokesman for the Netzwerk-Bildungsfreiheit, a German homeschool advocacy group, said the Dudek family situation results partly because in Hesse, a family’s failure to follow the mandatory public school attendance laws violates not only administration regulations but the criminal code.
HSLDA officials estimate there are some 400 homeschool families in Germany, virtually all of them either forced into hiding or facing court actions.
Wolfgang Drautz, consul general for the Federal Republic of Germany, has commented previously on the issue, contending the government “has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion.”
Drautz said schools teach socialization, and as WND reported, that is important, as evident in the government’s response when a German family in another case wrote objecting to police officers picking their child up at home and delivering him to a public school.
“The minister of education does not share your attitudes toward so-called homeschooling,” said a government letter in response. “… You complain about the forced school escort of primary school children by the responsible local police officers. … In order to avoid this in future, the education authority is in conversation with the affected family in order to look for possibilities to bring the religious convictions of the family into line with the unalterable school attendance requirement.”