German authorities tear family apart because parents decide to homeschool
What’s at Stake
The right of parents to choose the education of their children
In 2004, 15-year-old Melissa Busekros was doing very well in all but two of her classes at a top school in Erfurt, Germany. When she fell behind in these two subjects, the school wanted her to repeat the year. Since she was doing so well in all her other subjects, her parents felt it would be better to educate her at home. They then submitted a detailed application to the Bavarian Ministry of Education, asking that Melissa be home-educated from September 2004.
Homeschooling in Germany is almost entirely prohibited, and in January 2005 the ministry denied their request without any further explanation. Melissa’s parents still decided to homeschool her, although she continued to attend piano and choir lessons at her school. The school then expelled Melissa and she was required to go to the “Hauptschule” – the lowest of three tiers in German education. When Melissa’s parents informed the authorities that they would homeschool her instead, police surrounded their home and forcefully removed Melissa from the property.
They put her in a Nuremberg mental institution, where she was diagnosed with “school-phobia”, and had to stay there for several months before being placed into foster care. Her parents lost their custody rights and Melissa was forced to move around several foster homes. During this time, the authorities never informed Melissa’s parents of where she was staying, and only gave them limited visitation rights. When she turned 16, Melissa acquired the legal right to decide where she wanted to live. At this point, she escaped from her foster home and returned to her family.
With the help of Alliance Defending Freedom, the Busekros family launched a case against the authorities in the German courts and then took their case to the European Court of Human Rights. Tragically, the court refused to hear the Busekros’ case, stating the misguided view that homeschooling runs the risk of creating “parallel societies.”
In spite of this setback, ADF International continues to fight for parental rights in Germany, and other countries in Europe, wherever the state overrides parents’ right to choose the type of education their children receive.
Our Role in the Case
Alliance Defending Freedom funded the domestic litigation and brought a claim to the European Court of Human Rights.