Violation of educational rights: an attack on human dignity?

Yesterday, Wednesday, April 24, 2024, the mayors of the twelve municipalities of Seine-Saint-Denis met before the administrative court in Montreuil. In question ? Their decrees issued on April 2 against the state ordering it to establish an emergency plan for education in Seine-Saint-Denis. Decrees that were not to the taste of the prefect, who challenged them and demanded their annulment with the explanation that “these decrees were passed purely politically and without any legal basis”.

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The mayors of Romainville, Bagnolet, Bobigny, L’Île-Saint-Denis, La Courneuve, Le Pré-Saint-Gervais, Les Lilas, Montreuil, Noisy-le-Sec, Pantin, Sevran and Stains issued an order on April 2, the latter demanding, everyone for their municipality, additional classes and AESH jobs in the name of the right to education. They believe that the state is failing in this area and that as such it violates respect for the dignity of the human person. According to them, “human dignity is not respected… The children of Seine-Saint-Denis lose 15% of their lessons because the teachers are not replaced”. As for students with disabilities, the missing 2,500 AESH hinders their right to education, they believe.

On the initiative of these decrees, François Dechy, the young mayor of Romainville. “Seine-Saint-Denis is still a victim of deep inequalities. We feel them every day. As mayor, we are trying to find a way of acting so that the state faces its obligations,” he tells us. “We are only asking for equality. Which is very reasonable considering the difficulties our area is facing, considering the social difficulties of our residents, but also the fact that our department contributes more than, for example, the Alpes Maritimes in terms of social contributions. We could ask for more, but we ask for the same, as far as the police, education, justice are concerned…”. If the mayor recognizes that his initiative, like that of his colleagues, is part of the protest movement launched on February 26 by the inter-union 93 and the parents of students, he insists on the legitimate basis of his decree. “We are no longer discussing educational inequalities, we are discussing situations of indignity. And this is what our decrees are based on.”

Binding from a legal point of view, the decrees have been strongly condemned by the prefect who sees them as a maneuver with a political – or even political – goal. The orders would not be legal because they would not be within the competence of the mayor, they would not intervene in the context of disturbing public order and peace, according to the prefecture. In fact, those orders would therefore be illegitimate.

The mayors, for their part, who were defended by Joyce Pitcher – known for the #OnWantDesProfs campaign, asserted that, on the contrary, there was indeed a disturbance of public order and peace and that, if they had not been arrested, it could be attributed to them. . The mayors base this legitimacy on the disturbance of public order and peace associated with disrespecting the dignity of the human person. “It is up to the state to take concrete measures to put an end to deficiencies in national education, sources of disruption of public order and peace,” the mayors write. Their action is based on a series of French texts – including the decision of the Council of State of October 27, 1995 – and international texts that guarantee the protection of fundamental rights, as well as on the work of the OECD and the European Union, confirming that the right to education is also “respect for dignity human persons”.

Convergence of struggles?

The action of the mayors of these municipalities is part of the protest movement launched last February by FSU 93, CGT Éduc’Action 93, SUD Education 93 and CNT Education 93. The Intersyndicate of Education is looking for an intervention plan of the department. A plan that would require the creation of 5,000 faculty positions, 2,200 AESH and 175 CPE. “We support the approach of the mayors of these twelve communes of Seine-Saint-Denis who warned the state to guarantee equality in the public education service as soon as possible and implement the emergency plan requested by the inter-union,” says Marie-Hélène Plard, joint secretary of the FSU- SNUipp. “In their decrees published on Tuesday, April 2, the mayors rely on the Declaration of Human Rights and the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. They particularly point out “access to education as an essential condition for the dignity of the human person”. As well as the mobilization of educational staff and parents, it is again a question of the state confronting its obligations. This popular movement supported by elected ministry officials demands a measure of equality through the implementation of an emergency plan! »

A solid legal basis

“We hope for new case law that shows that the state’s failure to guarantee the right to education for all students violates the dignity of the human person,” explains attorney Joyce Pitcher. “That would mean issuing orders forcing the state to hire new teachers would fall within the mayor’s police powers.” Naturally optimistic, the lawyer believes that she presented “very good arguments” and that the judicial practice that “had a tendency to develop since 1995” is on their side. “We were able to show that there is a real issue of dignity, especially for students with disabilities who, when unaccompanied, are subjected to humane and degrading treatment,” she concludes.

“This fight we are fighting is a fight for civilization,” adds François Dechy. “Human dignity must be established as a component of public order, as a fundamental component of republican order. If we question the democratic legitimacy of our action, it would hurt my France…”

In his long-awaited decision, due next Friday (April 26), the judge will recognize, or not, the link between the right to education and respect for human dignity. If the court finds that the orders issued are legal, the state will have to comply. A very symbolic message. The fact remains that, even if the judge rules in favor of the mayor, limiting the state will be very complicated…

Lilia Ben Hamouda

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