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Children unjustifiably enrolled in “special schools” - they face closure as a result

Prague, 2.4.2010 17:41, (ROMEA)

As many as 34 “special schools” in the Czech Republic have been educating healthy children according to a program for light mental disability even though the children concerned were never diagnosed with any form of mental disability. The schools concerned have all been receiving state subsidies to provide special needs education.

Representatives of the Czech School Inspection Authority revealed the results of their recently published investigation to journalists today, as well as the news that the schools concerned face fines and possibly even closure. In the three regions inspected, 110 children, more than one-quarter of them Roma, have been improperly diagnosed for enrolment in “special schools”. Inspectors also have doubts about whether another 173 pupils have been properly diagnosed for enrolment into special education classes.

Authorities have also determined that of the almost 16 000 pupils attending “special schools”, 5 000 of them were never even tested regarding their special education needs. Such testing is a legal requirement for the enrollment of children into such schools. In the majority of cases where testing has been lacking, it has been confirmed that the children are Roma. In the Ústí region, 53 % of Romani children attend “special schools”; 49 % of Romani children attend these schools in the Karlovy Vary region and 42 % of Romani children attend them in the Liberec region.

“These children have been assigned to the educational program designed for children with light mental dysfunction and the schools are unable to document that they genuinely belong there,” said Czech School Inspection Authority spokesperson Libor Vacek, noting that this was a gross violation of the law. “We have given them deadlines by which they must correct the situation. They must either produce the necessary papers, or reassign the children concerned into mainstream education. Should we determine that they have not corrected the situation, there is a real danger they will lose their accreditation,” Vacek said.

Inspectors also discovered that parents are not sufficiently informed about the educational methods at the “special schools” and the impact of that education on their children’s futures. Many of the “informed consent” forms reviewed by inspectors were never signed by parents, even though such schools may not enroll children without parental approval.

The schools which have improperly assigned children to be instructed as if they were mentally disabled have thus been improperly drawing on the greater financing available for such education from the state budget. “This is a gross violation of the School Act,” Olga Hofmannová, director of the Czech School Inspection Authority, told the press. An ordinary elementary school receives not quite CZK 41 000 per pupil, but disabled children educated according to special programs receive per capita subsidies that are at least 50 % higher. The schools thus improperly received at least CZK 2.25 million from the state.

The Czech Republic has long been criticized for the fact that many children unjustifiably end up in “special schools”. The vast majority of such children are Roma. According to research commissioned by the Czech Education Ministry last year, every fourth Romani schoolchild is “labeled” lightly mentally disabled as a result of these practices.

The ministry wants to make sure as many pupils as possible are educated in mainstream elementary schools. According to official Klára Laurenčíková, “socio-cultural disadvantage” seems to have replaced the notion of mental disability at the “special schools”.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, kos, idnes.cz, lidovky.cz, čtk, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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