Hungarian Court Orders School to Compensate the Families of Romani Students Educated in Special Classes

After three years, on June 1, 2004, the Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County Court ordered the Tiszatarján and Hejőkürt local governments to pay 3,650,000 Hungarian forints (approximately 14,680 Euro) compensation plus interest to nine families – Romani and non-Romani – whose children were unlawfully placed in segregated classes at the Tiszatarján Elementry School and taught a special curriculum between 1994 and 1999, despite not being mentally disabled and without the required expert opinions having been procured in a school under their authority. The families of the students were all of low income. According to the court’s decision, the school had established the special class ten years earlier and since that time the school’s principle had directed students he found incapable of completing the requirements of regular classes there. The judge concluded that the act of segregation will constitute lasting psychological damage to the children, who were denied quality education and were stigmatised and ridiculed as a result of their placements in such classes. Further, the special class teacher, an unqualified student teacher, forced the children to perform degrading actions such as kneeling on corn and also locked them in the room. As a result, according to the decision, the children exhibited fear, low self-confidence and withdrew from their peers. The court found that by segregating the complainants, the school and the local authorities were in breach of the Act on Public Education. The complaint was filed in 2001 by attorney Lilla Farkas as part of a joint strategic litigation project undertaken by the Legal Defence Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities (NEKI) and the ERRC. The defendants appealed the decision of the court.

(ERRC, NEKI)

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