Validity condemns exclusion of teenager from his school in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Slavko Mrsevic has Asperger’s syndrome – a highly functional form of disability from the autism spectrum.
Slavko attended an inclusive elementary school for nine years and made strong friendships. In 2015, he moved, with his friends, to secondary school with clear recommendations for accommodations to ensure he can get the educational support he needs. Numerous experts have confirmed that Slavko can follow the mainstream educational program with support. Nonetheless, in 2016, because of his disability, Slavko was excluded from the school and prevented from joining his friends in the classroom.
For a full year, Slavko went to his school during breaks to see his friends. When not trying to get into school, Slavko stayed at home, falling into a depression, and wishing to get an education and remain a fully accepted part of his community. Yet he was prohibited from accessing school grounds and the school threatened to have him removed by the police if he persisted.
International law guarantees all children with disabilities the right to go to inclusive schools. Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Republika Srpska, must abide by these laws and must allow Slavko to go to school and get an education. Slavko’s right to go to school has been confirmed by the Ombudsperson of Republika Srpska and Bosnia and Herzegovina. More recently, Slavko’s right to education was recognised by the judgment of the Basic Court (“Osnovni sud”) in Visegrad.
This year, Slavko’s class is graduating from high school. Slavko will not. Unlike his friends, because he is denied an education, he will be less likely to go to university, enter gainful employment, start a family and be seen as a fully equal member of society. In an exceptional decision, the School Board of the High School Centre in Rudo has allowed Slavko to sit with his friends in the classroom for the few remaining weeks before graduation, although he still cannot formally study. However, on 4 April, only a few short hours after he was informed of this decision, the Ministry of Education and Culture acted of its own initiative to ban him once again from the classroom.
Validity Foundation expresses our unreserved support for Slavko and his family. We stand behind Slavko and every child with a disability in Republika Srpska and Bosnia and Herzegovina. We call on the Ministry of Education and Culture to immediately suspend the execution of their decision of 4 April 2019. The Government must ensure that Slavko and all other children like him are able to access an inclusive education and graduate with their peers.