Czech School Inspectorate wants to count Romani pupils at "special" schools
The Czech School Inspectorate wants to once again count the number of Romani pupils attending the "practical primary schools" (previously called "special" schools). According to the Association of Special Educators (Asociace speciálních pedagogů - ASP), however, that is neither permitted nor possible.
The association claims there is no clear definition for how to recognize a Romani pupil and that sensitive data of that sort cannot be processed. Jiří Pilař, the chair of the association, told the Czech News Agency today that he is appealing to the Czech Education Ministry not to undertake the research.
Last week all directors of such schools received requests from inspectors to report the number of Romani pupils enrolled by 26 September. The head count is taking place as part of the Czech Republic's response to a 2007 judgment from the European Court of Human Rights according to which 18 Romani pupils were unjustifiably relegated to "special" school.
"The directive itself, and any eventual activity of a director in this direction is, in our opinion, in contravention of the Charter [of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms] because the data is decided subjectively. That means, in our opinion, that this behavior contravenes documents adopted by the Government of the Czech Republic as well as the law," Pilař claims in a letter to the Czech Education Ministry.
School directors are to decide who is Romani on the basis of a definition developed by the Czech Labor Ministry that has also been approved by the ombudsman. According to that definition, pupils will be counted as Romani if they consider themselves Romani or if they are considered to be Romani by a significant proportion of those around them.
Pilař finds this problematic, however, as all pupils attending these schools are meant to have been diagnosed as lightly mentally retarded and it is not clear what a "significant proportion of those around them" means. Pilař also said that last year the Office for Personal Data Protection (Úřad pro ochranu osobních údajů) issued a statement saying sensitive data from school registrations could not be processed even with the express consent of a pupil's legal representatives.
Ondřej Andrys of the Czech School Inspectorate is defending the head count, saying "Schools provide that exact same data in their reports." Those reports, however, will not be ready until November, and the data is said to be needed now by the ministry in preparation for a negotiation with the Council of the European Union in December.
The extraordinary investigation is now obligatory for all school directors. The rate of return on similar rapid investigations in the past has usually only been around 70 %.
If a director does not supply the data for his or her school, an inspector will visit the school to supervise the director's counting of the Romani pupils. The association says this amounts to pressure and threats.
The dispute will have to be resolved by the Czech Education Ministry, which has not yet adopted a position on the issue. The Czech Republic has long been criticized over the high proportion of Romani children attending schools intended solely for the lightly mentally disabled.
In 2011 the ministry adopted new decrees regarding this issue. The number of Romani pupils enrolled in such schools reportedly fell thereafter from 35 % to 26.4 %
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