Parliamentary body discusses Brežice peer violence case

Ljubljana/Brežice, 2 July - The Commission for Petitions, Human Rights and Equal Opportunities discussed on Tuesday the recent attack of a Roma student on his peer at a primary school in the Brežice municipality, peer violence and Roma issues. Coalition MPs obstructed the debate, saying it should not focus on one specific case.

The commission's chair, Jože Tanko from the opposition Democrats (SDS), presented several proposed measures - to urge the government to review the legislation dealing with youth violence, reconsider the legislative changes aimed at tackling Roma issues proposed by 11 municipalities that were rejected last year, and introduce regular reports in parliament on tackling Roma issues.

But since coalition MPs obstructed the debate, a vote on the proposals could not take place, so the members will vote on them at a correspondence session.

Coalition MPs obstructed the debate because they find it inappropriate that only one specific case of violence at one school is being discussed. "Violence should be discussed in general," Sara Žibrat from the Freedom Movement said.

Anton Šturbej (SDS) replied that in line with the rules of procedure the commission is there to deal with petitions and initiatives of the citizens.

Mitja Bizjak, head of the parent's council at the school in the Brežice area where the incident involving a Roma student happened, said violence had been a problem at the school since 2020 after the first Roma students were enrolled in 2019.

At first disciplinary incidents occurred but now this turned into physical violence, he said. Solutions seem elusive and "we hope someone will hear us", he added.

Bizjak said the parents were not intolerant and encouraged their children to socialise with the Roma students, "but some of them are so problematic they cannot socialise with them", he said.

Headteacher Anja Zevnik said the school had been striving to make the Roma students feel as accepted and integrated as possible, but in some cases, including in the case of the violent Roma student, this was not possible.

"What is most painful about this case is that a whole class has to adjust to a bully and accept violence. The Education Ministry stresses all the time that it has zero tolerance to violence, but it does nothing," said Aleksander Reberšek, an MP for the opposition New Slovenia.

Deputy Human Rights Ombudsman Jože Ruparčič said peer violence was a serious problem, which must be tackled by the state, not left to the municipalities. Students have the right to a safe and respectful environment, he stressed.

The Ombudsman's Office has been noticing a rise in peer violence in many schools, which is becoming a serious problem, and is not necessarily connected to the Roma community, he said.

In the Dolenjska region in the southeast, the issues with the Roma community should be tackled immediately, which the Ombudsman has been warning about for years. A solution must be found for more Roma children to finish primary school, as the statistics for certain areas are disastrous, Ruparčič said.

Brežice Mayor Ivan Molan and Kočevje deputy mayor Gregor Košir said that the authorities did not create an impression they were capable of solving the problem, with Molan noting that representatives of key ministries such as the ministries of labour, education and the interior affairs, and representatives of the police and prosecution did not attend today's session.

Darko Rudaš, head of the Forum of Roma Councillors, agreed that the Roma should be encouraged to get a job and send their children to school. He said that he advocated a moderate policy in line with the principle of "with rights come responsibilities". He would also like the National Assembly to discuss Roma issues at least once a year.

© STA, 2024