Children stone flamingo to death in zoo, Czech Internet users blame all Roma, protest march scheduled
Photographs of a flamingo that three Romani children stoned to death in the zoo in the Czech town of Jihlava are making the rounds of social networking sites. Emotions sparked by the incident have immediately spun the wheel of hatred and a march, ostensibly to draw attention to the security situation there, has now been scheduled for the end of the month.
What exactly happened, and what options are there for those involved in this case? Last Friday, at 13:30 in the afternoon, local police detained three children suspected of attacking flamingoes in the local zoo.
When the police officers apprehended the children, the staff of the zoo were on their heels after discovering that one of the birds had not survived the attack and another was seriously injured - the children were later identified on video footage of the incident and the flamingo breeders retrieved as many as 30 rocks from the flamingo area. Four hours later, zoologist Richard Viduna published on his Facebook profile a status update with photographs of the dead animal, where he wrote the following, among other things: "The consequence of today's 'little game with rocks' played by three of the dispossessed offspring of our 'long since fully-integrated fellow citizens' who snuck into the zoo."
Even though Viduna added a clause stating that he would erase any hateful commentaries, his post began to immediately spread online organically, many articles were written about it, and the ethnicity of the children was the primary topic of the online comment. Due to the age of the perpetrators (two were born in 2010 and one in 2011) it was essentially clear from the beginning that the police would close the case.
"It is 100 % certain we are closing the case and handing it over to the state prosecutor," police spokesperson Dana Čírtková told news server Romea.cz. The fact that the perpetrators cannot be punished because of their young ages made the online discussers lash out at them even more.
Now it's up to the social welfare department
The age of the boys involved has been reported by the media as ranging between five and 10 years old, and the question was quickly asked as to why at least two of them had not been in school at the time. According to information provided by the Jihlava child welfare department (OSPOD), the school day was already over for two of the boys.
All three of the boys come from a large family with whom OSPOD is in contact because of their older siblings. "The entire incident involving these minors is being described in the media with a certain dose of emotion. Because children are involved, a thorough investigation must take place and the parents' roles as their legal representatives must be taken into consideration. Already at this juncture I can reliably state that the parents have not fulfilled their obligations toward their children with respect to raising them as legal norms define such care," warns Jozef Labuda, the head of the Jihlava Social Affairs Department, who is currently performing investigations in families.
Labuda does not yet want to say what measures his department will decide to undertake in this case. Generally, however, it is possible to say that several ways forward are immediately available.
Supervision could be ordered to be performed together with the school, other institutions, and persons from the place where the children reside. The children, their parents, or other persons responsible for raising them could be subjected to restrictions designed to prevent the way they are being raised from having a harmful influence, especially by banning them from certain activities or from visiting certain places, events or facilities that are inappoprirate for children and their development.
The children, parents or other persons responsible for raising them could also be tasked with the obligation to use professional counseling aid. Criminal charges against the parents themselves are also being considered: "Whoever, even because of neglect, endangers the emotional, intellectual or moral development of a child by failing to meet his or her obligation to care for the child, or failing in another important obligation flowing from his or her parental responsibilities, shall be punished by up to two years in prison," Labuda warns.
Klára Laurenčíková, a special needs educator who also specializes in behavioral disorders, essentially agrees with Labuda. "I would intercede for the involvement of a professional, for example, of a children's psychologist. If OSPOD then finds a more serious danger is posed to the healthy development of the minor, they should proceed to develop an Individual Child Protection Plan for him. They should map his family background and eventally convene a multidisciplinary case conference during which, together with other professionals, the child himself, and his family, they will sensitively assess the situation and plan the next steps to stabilize this troubling situation," she said.
Who will pay?
Another question is who should compensate the zoo for the damages. "We will certainly sue the children's parents for compensation for these damages. The price of the flamingo is difficult to calculate because this particular one was for breeding. We can assess it at CZK 50 000 [EUR 1 850] at a minimum," zoo director Eliška Kubíková is convinced.
The director said that while she can comprehend any plight that the boys' family might find themselves in, she must act in the interests of the institution she is leading. In the online discussions about such compensation, the suggestion has frequently been made that if the children's parents cannot pay for the damage, they should work it off somehow.
Kubíková has said she is not against that idea. If the parents themselves were to propose it, she would consider it a nice one.
Her subordinate Viduna sees the situation similarly. "The parents should publicly demonstrate their regret, pay a commensurate portion of the damage, and set an example for their children. The best thing to do would be for them to perform some work here in the zoo and for their children to be there too," he proposed.
Viduna claims he is surprised that the children's ethnicity, which he revealed under the influence of his own emotions, is now being considered the core of the problem by online commentators, but he sees no reason why he should not have revealed it. He alleges that Romani children have repeatedly snuck into the zoo and caused problems there.
"It's because of political correctness that we have arrived at the situation we are in now," Viduna told news server Romea.cz in a telephone interview. He did not want to elaborate further.
Viduna lives in Brno. He commutes to Jihlava to work, and said he gets his information about "the situation" from his acquaintances and friends.
They are the ones who told him about the Facebook event called "March to support the Jihlava Zoo", which is convened for next week, the organizers of which (whose identities are concealed by nicknames in the public announcement) want to draw attention to what they allege has long been a poor security situation in the town. For the time being it seems fans of anti-Romani marches are those being attracted to the event.
Viduna does not plan to attend. "I just wanted to draw people's attention to the fact that visitors frequently do not respect the rules of the zoo and harm the animals," he said.
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