Parents of 633 students boycott the admission of three Romani children in Spain
Beginning April 14, 2000, parents of the 633 students of San Juan Bosco school in the Basque town of Barakaldo protested against the admission of three Romani children. The children have been without schooling since March 31, 2000, when the public school they attended was closed. At this school there were only thirteen children, all Roma. The other students have reportedly been placed in surrounding schools.
On Wednesday, May 10, 2000, the Romani children had their first day at San Juan Bosco school, but were the only students present. They were accompanied by Mr Jesús Gimenéz of the association Iniciative Gitana, the thirty teachers of the school and a police escort, while parents vocally protested in the street. The parents had voted to boycott the school. According to media reports, the vote was 29 parents in favour of the admission, 438 against and 163 abstentions. The parents association denied that their protest was racist. Local authorities put the matter in the hands of the district attorney for juvenile affairs, who threatened parents with legal action if they did not comply with the obligation to send their children to school. Under this threat, over 90% of the students were back in school on Monday, May 15, although the parents insisted they would carry out other protest measures. The three Romani children have been placed in a separate classroom with no other students.
The school belongs to a Catholic religious order and receives 250 million pesetas a year of public money. Barakaldo is a working class neighbourhood on the outskirts of Bilboa, the Basque country's largest city. In 1995, a conflict reportedly took place in this area when a group of neighbours mobilised to demand the expulsion of several Romani families. Currently, approximately 2570 young Roma attend elementary and high schools in the Basque country.