Although homeschooling is increasingly common in the United States, in Germany the number of homeschooling families remains very small. Chiefly, this is because the German government, backed by the courts, doesn’t look kindly on families that homeschool, making it illegal for students not to attend in traditional schools.
In extreme cases, parents who fail to enroll their kids in classes, risk losing custody completely.
That was the rock and a hard place the Romeike family found themselves between. Their Evangelical Christian faith, which is out of step with the religious life of Germany, made homeschooling the only viable option for giving their kids religious instruction. As a result Hannelore Romeike and her husband Uwe moved to the United States where parents teaching children wasn’t discouraged with nearly the same enthusiasm.
The Romeikes’ fight began in 2006, when they took over the education of their three eldest children. In retaliation, the German government charged them more than $9,000 in fines. One day, authorities showed up and forcibly took the children to public school. Fearing they’d lose custody altogether after the 2007 ruling, the Romeikes left their home in Baden-Württemberg and moved to a small town in eastern Tennessee best known for being the childhood home of Davy Crockett.
As soon as they moved, the Homeschool Legal Defense Association offered its services to the family in order to help with their asylum application. Although the immigration judge ruled on favor of granting asylum, after the Obama administration appealed in 2012, the Board of Immigration Appeals overturned the ruling.
Michael Farris, the head of HLDA, said that the administration’s insistence that asylum is not appropriate in this case seems to go against President Obama’s repeated calls for amnesty for over 11 million illegal immigrants residing in the United States today.
While there are few homeschoolers in Germany, there are many in the United States—1.5 million students in 2007, according to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics. Homeschool families have long held that education choice is a parental right; furthermore, it’s an exercise of free speech and, in some instances, religious freedom. By extension, it is a constitutional right and a human right, Farris says.
Farris said that the case was an important one and will serve as a test of whether the US accepts violations of individual liberty as a violation of one’s human rights. According to Farris, the administration’s position is that because everyone is oppressed equally by Germany’s “no homeschooling” rules, no human rights violations are occurring. Yet the Romeike family’s religious freedom is being violated by the German mandate – and it’s hard to argue that US doesn’t consider such freedoms to be a fundamental human right.