Russia proposes punishing schools and parents if kids go to rallies amid anti-Putin protests

Russia proposes punishing schools and parents if kids go to rallies amid anti-Putin protests

The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs believes that to counteract extremism, Russia must hold both parents and teachers liable if their kids take part in protest actions.

Timur Valiulin, the chief of the main department for countering extremism of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, suggested holding parents and teachers responsible if their teen children take part in uncoordinated political actions, he said in a statement during a President-backed meeting of the Human Rights Council, RBC reported.

"We are concerned about young people participating in uncoordinated street actions. The percentage of young protesters is growing. The ever-lowering average age of the participants is alarming," Valiulin said.

"We should think if we could introduce amendments or changes in order to hold accountable both the rally organizers and the parents of the participating schoolchildren, as well as the educators, too," the MIA official said.

Over 100 Russian cities were swept with protest actions in March (some were not coordinated with the authorities), organized by Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK). The rallies had been triggered by the FBK's investigation of a "secret real estate" owned by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

After the mass detentions in Moscow and St. Petersburg when juvenile minors were among the detained in the Ministry of the Internal Affairs, Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matvienko stated that any participation of adolescents and minors in protest actions should be legally curbed.

The upper house of parliament has been tackling the matter for a long time, said Valery Ryazansky, chairman of the Social Policy Committee of the Federation Council in a statement to RBC. "Just as parents get punished if their child is caught driving a car, they must be held accountable if their children are involved in unauthorized actions," the senator said. At the same time, he said, teachers should hardly be held accountable, “unless the children participate in illegal rallies during school hours or on the initiative of their teachers".

Ernest Valeev, First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Security and Counteracting Corruption (United Russia Party) told RBC that so far no one has proposed initiatives of this sort to the deputies. "I'm not familiar with the proposals, and I think it is wrong to comment on a toughening initiative ‘in general’," he said.

Another RBC source in the State Duma noted that "proposals of this kind are heard all the time, but it is not clear how they could actually be implemented."

Teachers should not be held responsible if schoolchildren take part in unauthorized actions, said Galina Merkulova, chairman of the All-Russia Education Union to RBC.

"Teachers cannot control things that happen outside school. Those suggesting bringing parents and teachers to justice do not know how to do it themselves," she said. However, according to Merkulova, schoolchildren "get used" to participating in unauthorized actions and "it's very dangerous". "If people [protest organizers] bear no responsibility for the rally participants, this is also dangerous," she added.

We simply cannot discipline teachers if schoolchildren go to unauthorized actions, said Vsevolod Lukhovitsky, co-chairman of Uchitel ("Teacher") trade union. According to him, from a legal point of view, speaking of legal responsibility is only possible if the guilt is proven. "In any situation, when a student is not at school, [proving the guilt] is virtually impossible," Lukhovitsky said. According to him, putting forward such an initiative, the Ministry of Internal Affairs just wants to intimidate teachers, who don’t have to fear any real implications.

There will be no use in the suggested amendments related to bringing parents and teachers to account when their children take part in uncoordinated protest actions, said Ruslan Tkachenko, the chairman of the Moscow City Parenting Committee. According to him, neither parents nor teachers can influence children aged 14 to 16 years. "Nowadays, if you forbid the child to go to a rally, they will judge you for holding them, punishing them. Children know this very well. When you want to make a child wash the dishes, they say: you have no right," Tkachenko said.

After the protest action on March 26, minor protesters were summoned to the Investigative Committee and asked to answer 60 questions: about Alexey Navalny's position, family issues, the looming revolution and food at the rallies, RBC reported. The investigators asked the parents to describe their child, say whether the child was enthusiastic about politics and law, who the child spent time with, why the child took part in the rally, where and when the child was detained and what exactly was told about the action.



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