Could International Homeschooling Case Have Implications for Oklahoma?

April 4, 2013

Even as Oklahoma legislators continually affirm the right and responsibility of parents to educate their children, the Obama administration Justice Department has called that right into question.

In 2006, German citizens Uwe Romeike (Roh-MY-kee) and his wife, Hannelore, declined—for religious and conscientious reasons—to send any of their five children to the local government elementary school. Instead, they began to homeschool.

Homeschooling is a legal educational option in every major western country—except Germany. The German Federal Constitutional Court claims the German government may legitimately suppress homeschooling because “the general public has a justified interest in counteracting the development of religiously or philosophically motivated ‘parallel societies.’”

In October of 2006, armed and uniformed police officers entered the Romeike home, forcibly took the children, and drove “the crying, traumatized” kids to the school, according to a legal brief from the Home School Legal Defense Association.

In November, an agent from the Jugendamt, the agency with authority to take children away from their parents, arrived at their door to demand that the children attend the government school.

The German government levied steep fines against the Romeikes—and, to collect them, could have begun proceedings to take away the Romeike home. The Romeikes fled Germany and were temporarily admitted as visitors to the United States, where, in Tennessee, they continued to homeschool.

In 2010, Memphis federal immigration judge Lawrence Burman granted the Romeikes political asylum, calling the German anti-homeschooling policy “repellent to everything we believe as Americans.”

At that point, the Obama administration intervened, appealing the case to the federal Board of Immigration Appeals, which ultimately overturned Burman’s decision. The Romeikes then appealed that decision. The case—Romeike v. Holder—is now before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The German ban on homeschooling is not a violation of human rights, argues U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, because it applies to everyone and not a specific group. Presumably, then, a government ban on dissenting speech or the free exercise of religion—as long as it applies to everyone—would not constitute a violation of human rights.

The case clearly has implications for U.S. home-schooling families. Should the courts ultimately rule against the Romeikes, the U.S. government, too, would presumably be free to ban homeschooling.

Happily for Oklahomans, Oklahoma is the only state with a constitutional provision that guarantees the right to home school.

OCPA has supported the “school choice” movement since our founding in 1993. Among other policy solutions, we’ve promoted tax credits, tax-funded scholarships, Education Savings Accounts, charter schools, and virtual schooling.

The Romeike v. Holder case bids us remember that homeschooling is an integral part of the school choice movement and arguably the purest expression of it. The parent-child relationship is antecedent to any social contract. We argue for parental choice, then, not simply as a matter of ensuring that all children receive the best possible education—but also as a matter of affirming that parents are their children’s primary educators.

Tina Korbe Dzurisin is an OCPA research associate. Formerly a staff writer at The Heritage Foundation, she also served as associate editor of the conservative website