Uwe and Hannelore Romeike and their five children have been living in the US since 2006 because their home country, Germany, forbade them from practicing homeschooling. Although they were granted asylum in 2010, that ruling was later overturned, and now the case is scheduled for an April hearing before the Sixth District Court of Appeals. Their lawyer, Michael Donnelly, believes the case is the first of its kind, and other legal experts say it could help redefine US asylum law. The Romeikes are one of several homeschooling families that have sought refuge in the US and other countries in the last few years.
What’s the Big Idea?
Germany has had a compulsory school attendance policy in place since 1938, when the Nazi Party sought to ensure the spread of its ideology to all children. While homeschooling isn’t explicitly banned — one professor estimates that the number of homeschooled children is between 300 and 600 — there are strict penalties imposed on parents who refuse to obey, including the possibility of jail time and custody restrictions. The German government argues that homeschooling leads to separate “parallel societies,” and the US Department of Justice says that the policy doesn’t constitute persecution under current criteria considered for an asylum request.