Czech expert says child welfare authorities should address discrimination in the schools
Klára Laurenčíková, the chair of the Czech Professional Society for Inclusive Education and a member of the Czech Education Ministry's expert team on inclusive education, said last week that she believes child welfare authorities should be more involved in cases of discrimination in the schools. The current Public Defender of Rights, Anna Šabatová, also pointed out that social workers have always been in a position to consult with parents about such matters as part of their jobs.
The comments were made during a debate organized by Open Society Fund Prague about the consequences of the European Court of Human Rights judgment in the case of "D.H. and Others versus the Czech Republic". In 2007 that judgment pointed out that Romani pupils were being unjustifiably assigned into the "special schools".
Child welfare workers are usually in contact with families and have always been in a position to aid Romani parents with defending their children against such discrimination. "Their role with respect to discrimination in education should have been better explained to them," Laurenčíková said.
She went on to say that during her own negotiations with the Czech Labor Ministry she has encountered the argument that school affairs are not something child welfare authorities have any power to affect. "I do believe this is part of their agenda, though. They could initiate the convening of interdisciplinary teams to make sure children's rights are not being violated," Laurenčíková said.
Šabatová recalled that at the beginning of the 2000s, when she was Deputy Public Defender of Rights, she worked on a case of Romani children who had been unjustly removed from their family and ascertained that all of them were attending "special school" and getting good grades there. Social workers explained to her that the family lived across the street from the "special school" and that nobody in the home was able to help the children with their schoolwork, Šabatová recalled.
She said she told them that such reasons for removing children from mainstream education and assigning them to "special school" were illegal. "I warned the social workers that they should also make sure children are not being groundlessly reassigned to special schools," she said.
Czech Education Minister Kateřina Valachová and Czech Labor and Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksová, both Czech Social Democrats, are scheduled to meet soon to discuss the role played by child welfare authorities in working with schools. Valachová recently remarked on the possible preventive role that child welfare authorities could play during a discussion of bullying in the schools.
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