Homeschooling International Status and Statistics

Homeschooling is illegal in Germany with rare exceptions. Mandatory school attendance has been in place since 1918. The requirement to attend school has been upheld, on challenge from parents, by the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany. Parents violating the laws have primarily or most prominently been Christians seeking a more religious education than that offered by the schools. Sanctions against these parents have included fines of thousands of euros, successful legal actions to remove children from the parents' custody, and prison sentences. It has been estimated that 600 to 1,000 German children are homeschooled, despite its illegality. Meanwhile, homeschooling is legal in Austria and Switzerland.

In a legal case commenced in 2003 at the European Court of Human Rights, a homeschooling parent couple argued on behalf of their children that Germany's compulsory school attendance endangered their children's religious upbringing, promoted teaching inconsistent with their Christian faith--especially the German State's mandates relating to sex education in the schools--and contravened the declaration in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union that "the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure education and teaching is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions".

In September 2006, the European Court of Human Rights upheld the German ban on homeschooling, stating "parents may not refuse... compulsory schooling on the basis of their convictions", and adding that the right to education "calls for regulation by the State". The European Court took the position that the plaintiffs were the children, not their parents, and declared "children are unable to foresee the consequences of their parents' decision for home education because of their young age.... Schools represent society, and it is in the children's interest to become part of that society. The parents' right to educate does not go as far as to deprive their children of that experience."

The European Court endorsed a "carefully reasoned" decision of the German court concerning "the general interest of society to avoid the emergence of parallel societies based on separate philosophical convictions and the importance of integrating minorities into society."

In January 2010, a United States immigration judge granted asylum to a German homeschooling family, apparently based on this ban on homeschooling. In April 2013, a decision by a U.S. appeals court overruled this and denied the petition for asylum, on the grounds that Germany's law applies to every resident, and does not single out any specific religious group for persecution. A petition of March 2013 for granting full and permanent legal status to the family received a White House reply in August 2013 without comment on the legal case. In March 2014, the Supreme Court declined to hear the family's appeal, but the Department of Homeland Security granted the family indefinite deferred action status, allowing them to remain in the United States. In February 2015, a bill was introduced that would allow up to 500 grants of asylum per fiscal year to families fleeing home school persecution.

An operation carried out by special agents in 2013 sparked the interest of global news outlets. The incident involved the Wunderlich Family of Darmstadt who, despite previous incidents, continued homeschooling. Special agents forcibly removed and seized four children from their home and ordered parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich to attend a court hearing. Michael Farris of the Home School Legal Defense Association condemned the operation, calling it "an outrageous act by a rogue nation."

The 12 Tribes is one religious group that insists on home schooling and has been in conflict with authorities. On September 5, 2013, German police raided two communities and removed 40 children to protect them from supposed continued abuse. An investigative TV report had documented systematic child abuse in a 100-strong community in Bavaria, including "persistent beatings for the most trivial offences". A few days later, German media reported about the disappearance of about ten school-aged children from the small town of Dolchau. Probably they had been brought to a farm belonging to the 12 Tribes in the Czech Republic to elude intervention by the authorities who would ensure their public schooling.