GENEVA (May 29, 2018) – Spain’s segregation and exclusion of students with disabilities from mainstream education, on grounds of their impairments, amounts to grave or systematic violations of those students’ right to education under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, UN human rights experts said in a report issued today in Geneva.
“The parallel education system in place for those students with disabilities who do not fit mainstream schools becomes parallel tracks of school life, employment and later on, residence, leading to very different life outcomes,” said Ms. Theresia Degener, Chairperson of the UN’s Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The experts stated their findings in a report issued following a 2017 confidential inquiry. In January and February of that year, Mr. Coomaravel Pyaneandee, Committee Vice-Chair and Committee member Mr. Carlos Parra Dussan travelled to Madrid, León, Valladolid, Barcelona, Seville and Málaga where they met more than 165 people. These included civil servants from the central Government and the 17 Autonomous Communities (regional governments), as well as representatives of organizations of persons with disabilities and other civil society organizations, researchers, academics, judges and lawyers.
Their inquiry was in response to submissions from a representative organization of persons with disabilities (2014) and one of the entities in the national independent monitoring framework (2016), alleging that despite legal reforms to education at the national level, Spain’s education laws and policies perpetuated the medical model of disability.
The experts found that Spain has contributed to a discriminatory system that in effect uses legal provisions in place to maintain two educational systems and divert students with disabilities outside mainstream education. Additionally, they found that the lack of safeguards in place for independent monitoring mechanisms means that once a student leaves the mainstream education system, he or she will remain out.
“Two separate modalities of education cannot coexist in an inclusive education system based on the right to non-discrimination and equality of opportunities. The system must consist of one modality for all students and must be based on the quality of the education, providing to each student the support that he or she requires,” said Mr. Parra.
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities works to ensure that countries which have ratified the Convention, such as Spain, live up to their human rights commitments. That includes a commitment to ensure that “persons with disabilities are not excluded from the general education system on the basis of disability, and that children with disabilities are not excluded from free and compulsory primary education, or from secondary education, on the basis of disability.”
Among other recommendations, the Committee called on Spain to establish a national action plan elaborated in consultation with representative organizations of persons with disabilities.
The full report is available here.
The observations of Spain can be found here
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The Committee’s confidential inquiry took place under Article 6 of the Optional Protocol to the CRPD Convention, which Spain acceded to in 2007. This gives the Committee the mandate to conduct inquiries into allegations of grave or systematic violations by the State party of rights set forth in the Convention. To learn more about the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRPD/Pages/CRPDIndex.aspx