Justice chancellor: Challenging distance learning in court unlikely

Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise said on Thursday the introduction of distance learning in Tallinn schools is a school organization issue that most likely cannot be challenged in an administrative court.

"The school may be closed by the Health Board to control the epidemic or by the school operator, i.e. the city, rural municipality or the owner of a private school, in coordination with the Health Board. If the school is closed by the Health Board, the decision to close the school can be challenged in an administrative court, in particular by the school operator," Madise told ERR.

"If the school closes, the possibility of contesting depends primarily on whether the child has been excluded from studying. If studying is organized, for example, by distance learning, then the child may not have grounds to challenge the decision," she said.

Madise said the city of Tallinn has not made a decision to close schools and the city, as the school administrator, has given instructions to schools on how to organize education so that students are dispersed and thus reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

"Schools should start to diversify their studies according to the school crisis plan at the third level of upper secondary and basic school, i.e. from the 8th grade. The implementation of distance learning is a matter of study organization, which generally cannot be challenged in an administrative court," Madise explained.

Questions about the quality of education should be addressed to the school or Ministry of Education.

"Thus, when it comes to whether a school is in accordance with the law, it is primarily a matter of supervision. Therefore, if a student, i.e. a parent, suspects that the provision of education is affected by the organization, It is not possible to challenge the organization of studies in court, but the success of the complaint depends to a large extent on the circumstances, "Madise noted.

She said children have the right to a good education, including school attendance and hot school meals, and children must not be left out of school or hobby education without a good, scientific basis.

"The fears are understandable and caution is appropriate, but scientists and health experts must be trusted," Madise said. "Emotional decisions are ultimately detrimental to children, parents and the school."

On Wednesday, Tallinn introduced a policy which moves children studying in the eighth grade or above to distance learning rather than learning in the classroom after a spike in coronavirus infections in the capital in recent weeks.

The move was criticized on by the head of the government's advisor council Professor Irja Lutsar as being an overreaction and parents have also been unsupportive of the policy.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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