Disabled and Roma children stigmatized by representatives of the education system

Disabled and Roma children stigmatized by representatives of the education system

Bucharest, September 10th, 2014. The European Center for the Rights of Children with Disabilities (ECRCD) notified today, September 10th, The National Council for Combating Discrimination regarding the publication of a number of articles in a regional newspaper that include discriminatory content towards disabled and Roma children from Romania.

The articles, written during April and May 2014, featured the journalist’s personal opinion, as well as official statements of union leaders from the education system and representatives of a special school, which seriously inflict upon the right to dignity of the children with disabilities through propaganda and offensive comments, that can generate a hostile and degrading perception of these children.

“… they can hit and they have an incredible force. At any time of day and night, this kind of children are full of bruises. We had an autistic blind child for evaluation once. We were two adults holding him, trying to restrain him from hitting himself or hitting others. He managed to escape our grip and punch himself twice… We have a pregnant colleague in our school, an English teacher that asked: “How do I go on with my classes when I already lost a pregnancy? What should I do when I’m hit by a child and lose this pregnancy too? Who is protecting me?”

“It’s all because this lady has a child and wants to integrate him in the mass education system and he wasn’t accepted, because for a child who has Down syndrome and elements of autism is not possible to attend a regular school… where he can benefit of rights that are 5-6 times more expensive than what is happening here (in the special schools).”

“...A child comes in a mass school with deficiencies and ends up handicapped. This is a problem generated by the parents who refuse to accept that their children have deficiencies.”

“How many projects and programs were there since 1990 until now for the integration of Roma people? This is a different group, which can be somehow compared to the persons with deficiencies. And what were the results, apart from a lot of money down the drain and dedicated spots in universities and in other education programs that are rarely occupied? Integration cannot be forced or done over night!” 

“Too few Romanian children are attending our school nowadays, because of the others, who are Roma ethnics. A lot of parents are moving their children from here, because of Romas. A mixed class with Romanian and Roma children is a disaster. They disturb classes, they come with dirty clothes, smell badly and have lice.”

The above quoted statements belong to a teachers’ union leader, a school principal and a professor pedagogue.

In a context where research shows an increasing reluctance of the population towards the persons with disabilities, the authors of these statements are augmenting the idea of violent traits, of inability to integrate and live in amidst the community, inducing in a clear way the idea of an imminent danger which these children are representing in society.

Also, an aspect which is seriously and profoundly discriminatory for both categories is represented by the association of Roma children with the category of children with disabilities in a single category far more stigmatized because it represents, in the authors’ opinion, one big social danger. Thereby, in their opinion, both categories of children are endangering the teachers and determine typical/Romanian children to leave the schools, because, Roma children “come dirty, have lice and stink”, while children with disabilities are violent and extremely dangerous.

“The authors of these statements are erasing without shame and discernment ethnic and medical boundaries between children and they shamelessly allow themselves to establish stigmatized categories, to generate fear and hostility against these children. This type of attitude propagated publicly in the mass media has serious consequences at least on two levels: on one hand, it generates fear and rejection against the children with disabilities, and on the other hand it seriously violates the right to dignity of those children and their parents. These people must understand that the hate instigating speech can’t be tolerated and they must face the consequences of their actions”, declares Madalina Turza, the president of ECRCD.

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