Nothing like this has ever happened before. So far, the Polish authorities have used the police and a pro-government portion of the judiciary to repress young people who took part in protests against Poland’s near-total ban on abortion, rather than teachers.
Teachers with a favorable attitude toward the government, it turns out, could also be used for the same purpose. According to Polish media, a Catholic school in Białystok, north-eastern Poland, expelled a 17-year-old female student “with immediate effect” for her participation in massive demonstrations defending women’s rights in the fall of 2020.
Women’s Strike protests began in October and spread throughout Poland, including Biaystok. Members of the Young Left (Młoda Lewica) actively participated in them (a youth organization of the small socialdemocratic party Razem). Julita was one of them, and for demonstrating her civic stance, she faced serious consequences. She was initially falsely accused of co-organizing the event, but there were no organizers, and the gatherings were entirely spontaneous, as was the case throughout Poland. Nonetheless, the local police charged her and enlisted the help of the prosecutor.
Julita’s school, Our Lady of Mercy Catholic School in Białystok, found out about her student’s behavior via the internet. Julita was then expelled from school, effective the next day, after the school administration talked with police. The principal of the school called the girl and her mother for a meeting, at which they were given a termination notice.
The Polish leftist media STRAJK approached Julita’s lawyer, Anna Jaczun. This is what she said:
“The school statute specifies the grounds for removing a student from the rolls. The Pedagogical Council should make the decision, but no resolution of the Council has been made available to us. We sent an official letter today, requesting that it explain which school regulations the student violated. Furthermore, my client is a minor, she is required by law to attend school, education at her age is mandatory, and the Catholic school has not provided us with another institution to which she should report. I see no reason for such a dismissal. The only thing that appears to be their excuse was revealed during a conversation with the student’s mother, when the administration mentioned Julita is a member of ‘a negative peer group,’ or, as I understand it, the Young Left.”
Jaczun also stated that she and her client will fight and that no one will get away with this. She sent letters yesterday to the founding body of the Our Lady of Mercy Catholic School in Bialystok, the Association of Catholic Families of the Bialystok Archdiocese, requesting an explanation of the situation. Aside from that, she contacted the regional Board of Education, the City Council’s Commission on Education, and the Minister of Education. The Ombudsman’s office, the Children’s Rights Ombudsman, and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights were all asked to look into the case.
Julita is a prominent Young Left activist in the Podlasie region. This is what one of her comrades from the same organization, Zofia Stankiewicz, told Rut Kurkiewicz-Grocholska, a STRAJK journalist.
“Julita is one of Young Left’s most active members; we are like a small family, and we are here to support her during this difficult time.
She is a fantastic student and a wonderful person. I’m surprised no one approached her earlier to personally discuss the situation with Julita. Someone from the school had called her one day out of the blue to inform her that she was being expelled. Her mother attempted to figure out why, but school officials initially refused to explain. And they were finally forced to admit that she is being expelled because she actively participated in the protests.
The school administration also mentioned Julita’s online activities. She used her Instagram account to share content related to the Young Left, as well as other obviously left-wing content. This has irritated the school’s administration greatly.
To be honest, I believe the school should apologize and the school board should take appropriate steps to ensure that other students are not persecuted for their views!”
Julita is surrounded by friends and activists from local youth groups. It was possible to find a new school quickly thanks to the generosity of others, and she is pleased with it. Her lawyer is still waiting for responses from the school and other institutions. More legal action is unavoidable.
Nasza działaczka wyrzucona ze szkoły za poglądy i udział w protestach ‼️
Jedna z naszych białostockich działaczek…
Bulgarian and Polish activist, journalist, editor, publisher and translator. In the late `90 active in the Polish left and later in the labor movement, particularly the biggest Polish labor confederation — The All-Poland Trade Union Alliance. Until 2012 editor-in-chief of its weekly magazine. Contributor at Baricada.org and Strajk.eu, Polish correspondent for the Bulgarian National Radio.
Currently working as an editor and journalist for the Polish labor portal Strike and as a correspondent to the Bulgarian National Radio in Poland.