STA, 1 March 2021 - Underage secondary school students from the Maribor area who participated in a protest urging return to in-classroom learning in early February have been issued court summons for the purpose of answering charges of violation of the communicable diseases act, the We Demand School (zahtevamo šolo) initiative confirmed for the STA on Monday.
Lars Podkrajšek of the initiative announced resistance against such "intimidation".
According to the information known so far, a total of six underage persons have been summoned.
"They allegedly violated Point 14 of the first paragraph of Article 57 of the communicable diseases act, so the police initiated charges against them before the Maribor District Court. By gathering they are said to have posed considerable threat to public health in Slovenia even though they wore protective face masks and heeded physical distance," Podkrajšek pointed out.
The allegations will be challenged in court, he said, adding that if necessary, the initiative would seek legal recourse before the Constitutional Court.
"We will not let it happen, this intimidation against youth because they wish normal schooling in a way that would be best for them," he said.
The initiative believes that such summons, which were first reported by private broadcaster POP TV over the past weekend, will be issued to more persons since the six students received them on Friday and it is possible others are still on their way.
Similar rallies for return to brick-and-mortar schools were held in a number of other cities in Slovenia, but so far, only Maribor students have been summoned. If there are any others, the initiative urges them to contact the organisation to face the matter together.
Podkrajšek finds such measures unacceptable. He believes there is a trend in Slovenia of sanctioning those who oppose the current government. The summons target those who do not agree with the actions by the Education Ministry, he said, describing Education Minister Simona Kustec as "completely passive".
The initiative will continue to strive for a return of all secondary school students to in-classroom learning as soon as possible. Currently, only final years of secondary school and those attending lower occupational training programmes are allowed to be educated in person apart from primary school pupils.
"Smaller protest actions are in the making which will start to take place in the event the government does not make a decision on Wednesday for all secondary school students to return to school in a week or two," Podkrajšek said.
Violation of Article 57 of the communicable diseases act carries a fine of between EUR 400 and EUR 4,000. If the offence is deemed particularly grave, it could lead to heftier fines up to EUR 12,000.
The Maribor Police Department said that five persons were issued a fine of EUR 400 via mail in connection with the 9 February rally in Maribor. The police also brought charges against four underage individuals before the competent district court.
The police said that some 50 people attended the rally of which nine, holding posters or other objects demonstrating the purpose of the gathering, were ID'd as they violated Article 57/1-14 of the communicable diseases act, which refers to a temporary ban on gatherings.
They were all notified of the offences and those of age were informed the fines will be mailed, whereas the underage participants were told complaints will be initiated against them in line with the law, the police said.