Jan Jakub Hrazdira, or Jeník as he is known by those close to him, is 13 years old. He likes computer games, likes to cook and bake, loves swimming and diving. He has autism and a mild intellectual disability. Like many boys his age he has numerous interests, including swimming, diving, cooking and baking. When he was younger he was placed in a segregated school for children with intellectual disabilities, but it became clear that this was leaving him isolated and damaging his prospects.
“When he was attending a school for autistic and mentally challenged children, he would shut himself off. The curriculum was not right for him, his potential was not fulfilled,” said Mrs. Hrazdirová, Jan’s mother.
Jan and his mother were initially excited about the prospect of him being able to join a mainstream school, having received an independent professional opinion that this would benefit him. In 2012 they applied for him to be admitted to Milešovice School, about 30km from Brno in the east of the Czech Republic.
He was denied a place at the school. According to them, they were unable to provide him with support in the classroom, and had received complaints from parents about having a child with a disability in the class.
The refusal by Milešovice School was only the start of his problems. Jan’s mother tried to get him access to numerous other schools (14 in total). Multiple mainstream schools refused him entry simply because they couldn’t provide him with an assistant in class, forcing his family to pay the costs. “The tasks [in the segregated school] seemed easy to him, but when all the [mainstream] schools were refusing us, he thought he was stupid,” said his mother, noting the negative impact on him.
This month, MDAC submitted an application to the European Court of Human Rights on Jan’s. The case challenges the Czech Republic’s denial of Jan’s right to an education on grounds of discrimination, and the refusal to provide him with the support he needs to access mainstream education.
“Education is a fundamental right for all children, including children with autism or intellectual disabilities,” said MDAC Litigation Director Ann Campbell. “A quality education system must be inclusive, and should provide all children with the support they need to reach their maximum potential. By denying Jan access to an appropriate education, the Czech Republic is also failing to meet its obligations under international law.”
The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) guarantees the right to education for all children (Protocol 1, Article 2). The denial of an education on the basis of disability is a breach of the principle of non-discrimination, outlined in Article 14 of the Convention.
As a State Party to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Czech Republic has also committed to ensuring an inclusive education for children with disabilities (Article 24).
Jan’s situation is far from unique in the Czech Republic. The majority of children are placed in segregated schools, and are denied supports to access mainstream education. Where the education authorities refuse or fail to provide individualised supports to children with disabilities, parents find that they have no way of challenging this, even through the courts. If successful, the case could be crucial for many other children and young people in the Czech Republic.
MDAC calls on the Czech Republic to:
- Take action to guarantee that all children with disabilities can access a quality, mainstream education in inclusive schools;
- Ensure that children with disabilities are provided with the individualised supports they need to be included in mainstream classes, as is their right; and
- Provide legal routes for parents and schools to challenge the denial of supports to access inclusive education.
- MDAC’s Schools for All campaign aims to challenge education systems which segregate children with mental disabilities in separate ‘special schools’. Instead, the campaign calls for all children to be guaranteed their right to a quality education in inclusive shared learning environments which promote their social inclusion.
- Louise Price, barrister at Doughty Street Chambers in London, provided expert assistance for the application to the European Court of Human Rights, for which MDAC and Liga are grateful.
- To read MDAC’s legal submissions to the European Court of Human Rights, click here
- To donate to MDAC’s Schools for All campaign, click here.
This post originally appeared on website of Mental Disability Advocacy Center. Home page photo by Mrs Hrazdirová.