Circular on school discipline HRCSL proposes amendments

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By 2017-12-07

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL), addressing concerns about the right to education in the country, called for Circular Number 12/2016, regarding the protection of discipline within schools, issued on 29 April 2016 by the Ministry of Education, to be amended.

In a letter sent to the Secretary of the Ministry of Education, signed by HRCSL Chairperson, Dr. Deepika Udagama and Human Rights Commissioner and Media Spokesman of the HRCSL, President's Counsel, Saliya Pieris, the Commission made several recommendations.

The HRCSL noted that "in appointing teachers, in particular to mixed schools, attention must be paid to appointing persons with sensitivity and training in counselling," adding that "there should also be guidelines formulated in this regard."

In the event a serious breach of discipline involving a student has occurred, if testimony and evidence is being obtained via questioning from fellow students, this, the HRCSL recommended, should be done in the presence of an Education Director from outside the zone to which the school in which the incident is alleged to have occurred or in the presence of a representative designated by the latter.

"Teachers, principals, or school staff members from the school in which the incident is alleged to have occurred should under no circumstance be involved in sending letters of request or appeal with regard to disciplinary action," the HRCSL elaborated.

"Principals of schools must also be responsible for preventing any injustice occurring to any student reinstated in the school where the alleged incident occurred or in another school, at the hands of any teacher or student," the HRCSL added. The HRCSL also recommended that a guideline should be put in place with regard to the meetings of a disciplinary board conducting discipline related inquiries, the reports to be maintained about the quorum of the said board, the maintenance of reports containing notes on any investigation related proceedings, the time duration of the said meetings, the manner in which the proceedings took place, and the decisions of the board and the appeals made to it.

As per the Ministry of Education Circular Number 12/2016 issued on 29 April 2016, the Commission emphasized that principals and teachers when taking disciplinary action against a student should only do so with a view to bring the child back onto the correct track and not to darken the child's future in any way. Furthermore, the Commission has added that the said circular should be expanded to include protecting children from mental torture and that therefore, a new circular should be issued in this regard.

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