Report by the Ombudsman on some serious violations of the law, committed in the course of a disciplinary proceeding conducted in a school
An investigation by the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights has established that the Catholic Primary School of Makó and its supervisory authority conducted disciplinary proceedings against an eight-year-old child in a way that seriously violates the law, gives cause for grave concern and completely ignores procedural guarantees. According to Ombudsman László Székely, one of the lessons to be learned from this particular case is that the prevailing legal regulation of disciplinary proceedings in schools should be supplemented, since its inherent uncertainties may easily result in such improprieties; he has requested the competent ministry to take the necessary measures as soon as possible.
The parents seeking the Ombudsman’s assistance complained that the Catholic Primary School of Makó had initiated unlawful disciplinary proceedings against their child on several occasions before expelling the child from school; they did not receive substantive assistance from the school’s supervisory authority, either.
The investigation conducted by Ombudsman László Székely has uncovered serious improprieties. First and foremost, nobody bothered to identify the reasons prompting the child to behave aggressively towards his peers and teachers. The Commissioner has called attention to the fact that a small child was subjected to disciplinary proceedings, who is extremely vulnerable due to his age, which significantly increases the institution’ responsibility. The report emphasizes that, instead of applying the simplest solution, retaliation, in-school aggression should be examined in a wider context, its reasons and the factors and circumstances leading thereto should be analyzed. Educating and training teachers, employing school psychologists play a major role in preventing and handling in-school aggression.
In his report, the Ombudsman has also pointed out that the school, unlawfully, held the child liable for a disciplinary offence committed more than three months before. Unbiased procedure was not ensured during the disciplinary proceedings, and teachers affected by the child’s aggressive actions also participated in the decision-making. Their decision to expel the child from school was based only on general reasoning, they failed to take into account the statutory conditions for its application, and they also failed to mention in their decision the possibility of seeking legal remedy.
It was made possible by the shortcomings of internal regulations, as well as by the fact that the person appointed by the school’s supervisory authority to make the appellate decision did not have the proper competence and could not identify even the most obvious, serious violations of the law committed in the course of the disciplinary proceedings. The report also points out that the legal institution of delivering a disciplinary resolution should be harmonized with the prevailing legal regulations, and rules governing the student self-government’s advisory powers should be set. In order to duly clarify the facts of the case, special rules of hearing the injured parties and the witnesses should be added.
The Commissioner has requested the Minister of Human Capacities to initiate the adoption of additions to the legal regulations specifying further guarantees for disciplinary proceedings, the revision of regulations determining the statutory minimum number of school psychologists, and the inclusion of trainings on handling the students’ behavioral problems in the general education and training of teachers. The Ombudsman has suggested to the school’s principal to harmonize, both in form and substance, the internal rules of disciplinary proceedings with the prevailing legal regulations, and to conduct such proceedings in the future in full compliance with all fundamental-rights-related and procedural guarantees, with the objective of the disciplinary proceedings in mind.