Public Defender Assesses Refusal of Reappointment of School Principal as Discrimination on Political Grounds
On July 9, 2021, the Public Defender addressed the Minister of Education and Science of Georgia with a recommendation on the elimination of discrimination by association on the grounds of political opinion in labour relations.
The applicant had been working as a principal of one of the public schools in the Mtskheta municipality since 15 October 2014. In October 2020, she was not reappointed as acting principal and was replaced by another person. In the same period, the Minister left principals of several schools as acting principals in the same municipality, some of which even had their 12-year term of office defined by the Law of Georgia on General Education expired.
In the applicant's view, the refusal of the Ministry of Education to reappoint her was conditioned by the political activity of her husband and son, who were supporters of an opposition party. In the correspondence sent to the Public Defender, the Ministry limited itself to general information and did not specify what became the basis for the refusal to reappoint the applicant, or what criteria were used to consider the expediency of extending the term of office of other principals.
When discussing discrimination on political grounds, in addition to the factual circumstances indicated in the application, the Public Defender also focused on the general situation in the country, as the current problem in educational institutions is the use of schools for political purposes in the pre-election period. According to the Public Defender, given the increased risks of politicization of the education system and dismissal of persons on discriminatory grounds, the fact that the refusal of reappointment of the applicant coincided with the political activity of her spouse and son raises suspicions. In addition, the respondent failed to present a justification that would have refuted the suspicion of discrimination.
In her recommendation, the Public Defender called on the Minister of Education and Science to:
- Re-conduct a competition for the selection of the principal of the mentioned public school
- Immediately develop foreseeable criteria and procedures to determine the expediency of reappointment and dismissal of acting public school principals
- Take effective steps to depoliticize educational institutions
- Refrain from discriminatory treatment in labour relations and be guided by the principle of equality in the implementation of activities in the future.