The opinion was issued in the proceedings regarding the complaint filed by GG on behalf of his minor son AA against the preschool institution – kindergarten BB, and VV, the director of the institution. In the complaint, it was stated that VV refused to enroll AA in the kindergarten because of his problems. Namely, the child does not speak clearly. As specified in the complaint, on October 25, 2019, the boy’s parents were interviewed by VV, which gave them a positive answer regarding enrollment. However, according to further allegations from the complaint, VV canceled the agreement by phone four days later. The director of PI BB completely denied the validity of the complaint and pointed out that the institution does not have the accommodation capacity to accept new children and that, regardless of whether the child has certain health problems or not, they are unable to accept new children due to the overload of mixed groups. VV confirmed that in the conversation with the boy’s parents, she indicated that AA could be enrolled in the preschool institution BB with a personal assistant whose individual approach would help the boy progress. However, according to her statements, after talking with the educator DD, who works in a mixed group of children from the age of 3 until starting school, she was told that the group is already overloaded, that there are 19 children (and the norm is 17) and that the enrollment would add an additional burden to the group in which a disabled boy is already enrolled, who needs help with walking, dressing, and self-service. Therefore, according to the assertions in the statement, the director VV called the boy’s mother by phone and informed her, with an apology, that there were no conditions for enrolling another child. Along with the statement, among other things, the findings of the Educational Inspection were submitted. In the course of the procedure, it was established that the capacities of preschool institutions are specified by law and by-laws. According to the provision of paragraph 3 of Article 34 of the Law on Preschool Education and Upbringing, children with developmental issues and disabilities have the right to additional support in preschool education and upbringing in an educational group, with an individualization plan or an individual educational plan, and in a developmental group, based on an individual educational plan. As stipulated in paragraph 4 of this article, there can be up to two children with disabilities in one educational group. The number of children in an educational group, determined by this Law, is reduced by three per child from paragraph 3 of this article who realizes the right to additional support in the educational group, with an individualization plan or an individual educational plan. The Educational Inspection determined in the procedure of extraordinary inspection supervision that “PI BB in EE has a total of 57 children enrolled, of which the norm is 53. The preparatory preschool group (normative 17) enrolled 18, one mixed group from three years until starting school (normative 17) enrolled 19, another mixed group from three years until starting school (normative 10) enrolled 12 and the nursery group (normative 9) enrolled 8. According to the findings of the Educational Inspection there are currently no conditions in PI BB for the enrollment of children in a mixed group from the age of three until starting school, in accordance with the Decision on the maximum number of children allowed. In the minutes of the Educational Inspection, it was stated that no illegalities were found, and that the institution acted in accordance with the law. The Commissioner also noted that the fact that a child with a disability already attends the said pre-school institution shows that the staff of that institution does not have a repulsive attitude towards children from the said group. The fact that the boy’s enrollment in the kindergarten, which she manages, was previously agreed upon with the kindergarten director VV also speaks in favor of this. Based on the established facts and presented evidence, the Commissioner issued the opinion that the preschool institution – kindergarten BB, and VV, the institution’s director, did not violate the provisions of the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination. However, the Commissioner notes on this occasion that the ignorance of the director of the kindergarten about the number of children in the educational groups of the preschool institution she manages led to the fact that she reached an agreement with the parents of the child for whom enrollment in the kindergarten is of great importance, about the enrollment, and that after that, due to gaining insight into the number of enrolled children, informed them that enrollment will not take place because there are no conditions for that. This behavior created a feeling of hurt in the G family. Although the Educational Inspection determined that the Preschool Institution – Kindergarten BB acted in accordance with the law, and the Commissioner did not establish a violation of the provisions of the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination, we use this opportunity to point out that children who have certain health problems can often face problems in realizing their rights and non-acceptance of the environment, and that institutions should make a special effort in ensuring the conditions for their accommodation, socialization, and inclusion in the activities of an educational group and the entire community. The Commissioner points out that it is necessary for the head of the institution to be constantly informed about the accommodation capacities and the possibility for the educational institution to provide service to new users. This would also preserve the perception of potential users of the institution’s integrity and impartiality in the performance of its work. Bearing in mind the importance of the socialization and integration of the minor AA, the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality, based on Article 33, point 9 of the Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination, recommended to the preschool institution – kindergarten BB, and VV, the director of the institution, to take the necessary measures to timely inform the parents of AA about the vacant places in the institution and enroll AA as soon as the conditions are met.
COMMISSIONER FOR THE PROTECTION OF EQUALITY