Polish minister’s perceived snub of disabled kids sparks outrage – POLITICO



WARSAW — Poland’s education minister is under fire after disabled children were removed from a school premises before he was set to visit.

Shortly before a gala celebrating 60 years of a special needs school in Łuków, the children’s parents were told to take their kids home early, ahead of a visit by Education Minister Przemysław Czarnek, according to Polish media. All children in the lowest grades were also sent home.

The opposition-linked radio station TOK FM first reported about the decision on Wednesday, which the school initially justified as a pandemic restriction. But its principal, Danuta Kowol, then suggested that sending the children home early was appropriate because they wouldn’t have been able to fully participate in the ceremony.

“It just doesn’t make any sense for a quadriplegic child, who doesn’t understand anything and can’t hear, to take part [in the event],” Kowol told TOK FM.

Parents, and some teachers, reacted with outrage.

“I felt very bad when I found out that my child could not attend the event. This is not right,” one mother told TOK FM. “So what if they can’t talk or walk? They love being at school and in the company of other children. A special needs school should not show that there are better and worse children.”

After the initial press reports surfaced, Czarnek did meet with some of the children who had been sent home. His ministry denied it had known of the school’s plans ahead of the visit. It also blamed the media on Twitter for creating “an artificial controversy.”

Until this week, Czarnek was mostly known for promoting sweeping changes in school curricula to reflect the nationalist worldview of the government, led by Law and Justice (PiS).

In line with the recently announced “Polish Deal” — an array of reforms from taxation to energy — the government will also seek to promote its version of Polish history in schools while combating “bad deeds, demoralization, sexual revolution, and upending of social order,” in Czarnek’s words. The government-friendly media has dubbed this effort Czarnek’s “conservative counter-revolution.”

The minister is also planning to reform so-called inclusive education that’s focused on children with disabilities, such as those in the Łuków school.

Some critics say the incident wasn’t the most auspicious start to that drive.

“Nobody knows to what extent the ministry will actually want to include people with disabilities in mass education,” Paweł Kubicki, an economist and sociologist, told the opposition news website OKO.Press. “But if they needed confirmation that special needs schools do not help, or at least do not treat all their students properly, they got it.”





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