The authorities of School No. 66 in Tula, a city south of Moscow, have for many years operated a segregated school with separate classes just for Roma children. The school statute and website describe them as "Roma classes." Under this system, Roma children receive an inferior education and cannot transfer to regular classes. The Roma-only classes end after five years, meaning that the children have no access to secondary education, further marginalizing their community. This discrimination violates their right to an inclusive education.
For several years, all Roma children at School No. 66 in Tula City, Russia have been taught in so-called "special classes" with inferior instruction, whereas all the non-Roma children have been taught in regular classes.
The head of School No. 66 states that in the primary school there are "special classes for children of Roma ethnicity." The statute for School No. 66 explicitly states that the special classes are designed for "Roma children." Thus, this is a case of direct discrimination.
Lists of pupils for the 2008-2009 school year show that 41 students, all of whom are Roma, attended the four special classes in School No. 66. There were no Roma in the school's 12 regular classes.
Russian law stipulates that children are carefully tested before they are assigned to special classes, and the consent of their parents is required for both the testing and their placement in special classes. However, the Roma parents have not been asked to give their consent, and some were not even aware that their children were being segregated.
Children in special classes receive an inferior education compared to children in regular classes. Their education in the Russian language is poor. They are not taught a foreign language. They are not taught computer science or technology, all of which are essential skills in order to progress in society.
Until recently, it has been virtually impossible for Roma children to transfer to non-Roma classes. There are special classes only for the first five years of school. Thus, Roma children have no opportunity to attend middle or secondary school, severely limiting their life opportunities, and perpetuating their marginalization as an ethnic group.
The applicants sought to challenge this treatment before the Russian courts, arguing that it violated their right not to be subjected to discrimination, as well as their right to be educated, their family rights, and the dignity of the children. However, the courts rejected the claims as "unfounded."
The Justice initiative is representing the applicants before the European Court of Human Rights together with lawyers from the Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center in St. Petersburg.
The existence of separate classes for children with "special needs" that have, by design and in practice, only Roma students, constitutes impermissible racial discrimination and segregation, in violation of the following rights protected by the Convention:
Right to education. The children are given a sub-standard education for only the first five years of primary school, and are denied any access to the secondary education that exists for other Russian children, violating the right of access to effective education protected in Article 2 of Protocol No. 1.
Respect for family life. The refusal to seek, let alone secure, parental consent for both testing of the children and their placement in special classes constitutes a violation of the right to respect for family life protected by Article 8 of the Convention.
Discrimination. The children have been subjected to discrimination in the enjoyment of the right to education on the ground of race or ethnic origin by being placed in Roma-only classes in primary school which constitutes a violation of Article 14 taken in conjunction with Article 2 of Protocol No.1.
No effective remedy. Despite the fact that the case presents clear evidence of ethnic segregation in School No. 66, the efforts made by the applicants to seek a remedy were prevented by procedural hurdles, such that the substance was not considered. This means that no effective remedy has been provided for the applicants at the national level, in violation of Article 13 of the Convention.
August 2006. The School No. 66 Statute is approved, which states that classes for children with special needs are provided "to Roma."
Autumn 2006. No Roma class opened in the fifth year due to a lack of pupils. Students have to re-take the fourth year.
August 2008. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recommends that Roma are fully integrated into the general education system in Russia.
Autumn 2008. Louise Mikhaj applies to attend the sixth year but is told "Go home, you are already an adult. We do not have a sixth Roma class."
March 2009. Complaints filed with the Tula District Court, arguing that the discrimination violates the rights of the children. The claims are rejected.
April 2009. Appeals filed to the Tula Regional Court, arguing that Russian Courts should directly apply the decision of the European Court in D.H. and Others v. Czech Republic.
June 18, 2009. Appeals rejected.
February 16, 2010. Application filed with the European Court of Human Rights.
The case is currently being considered by the Court.