Supreme Court Denies Appeal From German Home-Schoolers

By Mark Walsh — March 03, 2014 3 min read

[UPDATE Wednesday 10:55 a.m. The Associated Press reports that a lawyer for the Romeikes says he has been informed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that deportation proceedings against the family have been deferred indefinitely, meaning they can stay in this country as long as they stay out of legal trouble.]

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned away an appeal from a German family that is seeking U.S. asylum because it contends that it faces persecution for home schooling in their native country.

Uwe and Hannelore Romeike, the parents of five children, moved to the United States in 2008 to escape Germany’s compulsory-education law, which dates to 1938 and requires all children to attend public or government-approved private schools.

The Romeikes object to public school because they believe their Christian religious beliefs would be undermined by such things as the teaching of evolution, sex education, and respect for homosexuality. They also refuse to send their children to state-approved private schools in Germany because such schools must use the same textbooks as the public schools.

The family contends in court papers that Germany’s ban on religious homeschooling has its roots in the Nazi era, when the Germans barred all private education to promote philosophical uniformity. The modern prohibition, which includes a small number of exemptions such as for circus performers, violates several international human rights treaties, the family maintains.

When the Romeikes pulled their children out of German schools in 2006, they were visited by the police, who seized their children and took them to school. When the parents pulled them out again, the police arrived for the next school day, but they backed off. Authorities instead decided to issue fines to the family that grew to about $9,000 by the time they left Germany.

In the United States, a federal immigration judge granted them asylum in late 2008. But the Board of Immigration Appeals and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati, ruled against them.

The 6th Circuit court ruled last year that the Romeikes could not show that Germany’s enforcement of its general school attendance law amounted to persecution against them on religious or other grounds.

“For better or worse, Germany punishes any and all parents who fail to comply with the school attendance law, no matter the reasons they provide,” the appeals court said.

The family appealed to the Supreme Court with the help of the Home School Legal Defense Association, based in Purcellville, Va. The group told the justices that the federal courts of appeals are split in asylum cases on whether a foreign prosecution under a general law may constitute persecution if the law in question violates international human rights standards.

The group says such international standards ensure that parents have the right to choose an education for their children that conforms to the parents’ moral convictions.

U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. filed a brief urging the justices to reject the appeal, saying the 6th Circuit court and Board of Immigration Appeals had correctly ruled against the family.

Verrilli said that, among other reasons, the case made a poor vehicle for deciding whether there was a circuit split on the relevant asylum question because the family had failed to introduce the text and history of the 1938 German compulsory school law.

He noted that both the European Court of Human Rights and Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court have upheld the compulsory school law against human rights challenges.

The justices on March 3 declined without comment to hear the family’s appeal in Romeike v. Holder (Case No. 13-471).

A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Data Analyst
New York, NY, US
New Visions for Public Schools

Read Next

Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read