Segregated Education for Romani Children in Denmark

10 May 2003

On December 3, 2002, the Danish Romani organisation Romano, together with Mr Johannes Busk Laursen and Mr Henrik von Bülow, activists involved in Romani issues in Denmark, filed a complaint with the Supervisory Council for Frederiksborg County against the placement of thirty Romani pupils into three segregated Romani classes in the Municipality of Helsingřr, eastern Denmark. The segregated classes have reportedly existed for approximately twenty years. The complaint alleged that Romani children of all ages and from all class levels were placed together in the separate classes, with only one teacher for twenty-five hours per week and one social pedagogue. The segregated classes are reportedly located in the following schools - Skolen Ved Gurrevej, Nordvestskolen and Borupgĺrdskolen. A June 2001 report by the Helsingřr Municipality entitled "Children with Special Needs, Focus on the Special Classes Area", defines "F-classes in Obs-regi" (observational classes for children who do not attend school regularly) as classes for "Romani pupils who cannot be contained in a normal class or in a special class". According to the complaint, Romani students have been placed in the segregated classes without any pedagogical-psychological assessment before their placement. In fact, Romano stated, a worker with a senior position in the school system testified that teachers in normal classes who believe that there is a Romani child with such serious problems that the teacher could not teach that child need only to fill out an "internal check list" and the child will be assigned to the segregated classes. The complaint purports that the definition of the Romani classes as neither normal classes nor special classes for children with special needs, but as classes for Romani children, based solely on their ethnicity, prohibits children in the classes from the benefits offered to these various categories of classes. The result of this practice is the denial of equal educational opportunities for Romani children in Denmark. In support of this contention, on January 8, 2002, the Danish national daily newspaper Dagbladet Information quoted Mr Jarl Gerner, director of a school in which the Romani classes exist, as having stated that he could not recall a single student from the Romani classes who had been integrated into normal classes. As of April 29, 2003, there had been no official response to the complaint. The placement of Romani children in segregated classes violates a number of provisions of international law, including Article 3 of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, which states, "States Parties particularly condemn racial segregation and apartheid and undertake to prevent, prohibit and eradicate all practices of this nature in territories under their jurisdiction."

(Dagbladet Information, ERRC, Romano)


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