Czech school opens "special" first-grade class, only Roma assigned to it
The principal of a primary school in the town of Krásná Lípa in the Šluknov foothills has created a "special" class only for Romani first-graders. Their parents are complaining that they did not know their children would be attending a class that would be separate from the other children.
The school is arguing that the children are not being differentiated by ethnicity, but according to whether they have attended nursery school or not. The Romani parents allege that non-Romani parents put together a petition to the principal stating that they did not want their children attending the same class together with the Romani children.
The mayor of the town has also admitted that majority-society parents expressed such displeasure. "My son began first grade today. The principal has set up three first-grade classes and a socially vulnerable class that is being attended by my son and others. The parents of the children in the other classes put together a petition saying they did not want our Romani families attending the same class as their children. They did not give us any opportunity to choose, this all happened without any regard for our opinions," a Romani mother wrote to news server Romea.cz on 1 September.
The founder of the school says the differentiation of the children is warranted because those who never attended nursery school will have assistants and special needs educators in their class. "There is no petition," principal Ivana Preyová, who is also a member of the town council, told news server Romea.cz.
"The assignment of pupils into classes is within the power of the school principal. None of the grades have been differentiated according to 1A, 1B, etc. after consultation with parents. This is not a segregated class," she said.
"There are 26 Romani children in that class. Some of them are lighter-skinned and don't look like Roma at first glance, but all of the children in that classroom are Romani," Petra Jelínková, another mother of a first-grader in the "special" class, told news server Romea.cz.
"The petition was making the rounds before summer vacation, it was delivered to the local authority, to the council, but no one informed us about it ahead of time. On the first day of school, one of the mothers asked the teacher whether the class our children are attending is a Romani class. He said yes it was and that we should address it with the principal, but she told us that the reason for assigning the children into that class is that they never attended nursery school and that during enrollment it was ascertained that the children need a special class. Enrollment took 10 minutes... Yes, there are children here who might need a special class, but certainly not all of them do. The principal closes herself off in her office, it's not possible to communicate with her much," Jelínková said.
According to a report by Czech Television, Mayor Jan Kolář has admitted that majority-society parents were displeased to learn Romani children would be attending the school. "Some parents of children from the majority society concluded that it would be more appropriate for their children not to attend our school precisely because the proportion of Romani children in each class is growing," he said.
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