Public statement: Violence that precedes dialogue

Suspension of school restructuring plan does not excuse police abuse against children and adolescents

Suspension of school restructuring plan does not excuse police abuse against children and adolescents Suspension of school restructuring plan does not excuse police abuse against children and adolescents

The decision by the government of Geraldo Alckmin to suspend the restructuring of the state school network, followed by the resignation of the São Paulo education secretary, Herman Voorwald, does not erase the trail of violence left by the state police force in brutal acts of repression against children and adolescents they should be protecting.

According to the secretary, since the announcement of the measures, the state government has always spoken publicly about its attempts to negotiate with the secondary students – who are now occupying 196 public schools in protest against the proposed “reorganization”. However, away from the spotlights, the São Paulo military police under its command have been acting with brutality and disproportionate use of force.

“It is unacceptable that the head of the government has not spoken out against, much less taken steps to address the countless violations perpetrated by its police force against adolescents who are peacefully protesting,” said Rafael Custódio, coordinator of the Justice program at Conectas. “There is no ‘war’ or ‘confrontation’ possible between heavily armed men and defenseless children and adolescents. The name for this is repression,” he said.

Conectas strongly condemns the violence used by the military police against students inside public schools and against demonstrators exercising their legitimate right to peaceful protest. According to reports and images circulating on the internet, security officers are, once again, violating constitutional rules and recommendations issued by the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the OAS (Organization of American States).

The military police have also ignored a clause of the Child and Adolescent Act that prevents minors charged with an offense from being transported in closed compartments of police vehicles, and a Supreme Court ruling that permits the use of handcuffs only in cases of resisting arrest and when there is reasonable risk of flight or of harm to someone’s physical integrity.

At demonstrations staged on Avenida Nove de Julho, Avenida Tiradentes and on the streets in downtown São Paulo, respectively on Tuesday (December 1), Thursday (December 3) and Friday (December 4), the military police indiscriminately harassed, arrested, assaulted and injured protestors.

The events are similar to the infamous episodes that occurred in June 2013 that were denounced by human rights organizations to international bodies; in June 2014, during the repression of the protests against the World Cup; and in January this year, when the police reacted violently to the protests by the Free Fare Movement against increases in public transport fares. As a result of these episodes, the São Paulo State Public Security Department was the target of an official complaint submitted by Conectas, Article 19 and the Human Rights Center of the São Paulo Public Defenders Office, and a public civil action filed by the Public Defender’s Office.

No transparency or participation

The justification given by the state government for the “reorganization of the teaching network” is the existence of unfilled classrooms and that schools specializing in a single educational level present better results in the Idesp education quality index. However, the measure – which has been resisted by students for six weeks – also includes the closure of 94 schools and the transformation of the others into primary, middle and high schools, which would result in the relocation of at least 300,000 students.

The government did not call a single public hearing before the announcement of the reorganization and the students were not consulted at any stage of the process.

The lack of transparency or openness to social participation has been widely criticized by respected higher education institutes, such as USP, Unicamp, Unifesp, UFABC and Unesp, as well as by civil society organizations. In addition, they have all questioned the educational merits of the proposal.

“It was not discussed with the school communities, nor with the educational community or with São Paulo society. Given the lack of technical criteria or a public document justifying the measure, everything indicates that it is a step to reduce costs and to release the state from its responsibility for providing school places and transferring this responsibility to the municipalities,” reads an excerpt of an open letter published by the National Campaign for the Right to Education.

Based on this same understanding, the São Paulo Public Defender’s Office and the State Public Prosecutor’s Office filed a public civil action this Thursday, December 3, to try and suspend the implementation of the school reorganization.

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