What happened at School No. 225?

On April 10th of this year, Aleks*, a 10th-grade student, reported that they had been subjected to discrimination by the teaching staff and students of School No. 225, named after Telman Abbasov.

Aleks stated that throughout their ten years of schooling, they had experienced ongoing harassment, including sexual slurs, threats of being stabbed, killed, and beaten. While they had not openly declared their gender and sexual orientation, their friendships with girls, parting their hair in the middle, and not conforming to traditional gender norms had created animosity towards them among the school staff and students.

"I have been targeted because of my feminine behavior. I have been labeled as 'gay' for not conforming to gender roles and threatened for being myself," Aleks said.

"In the geography class, my teacher, Sevda Ismayilova, constantly belittled me in front of the students, saying things like, 'Why do you act like a girl?' 'Be serious like a boy,' 'Take off your mask, don't cover your face like a bride who just turned into a man,' 'sissy,' and so on. She diminished my self-worth and allowed my classmates to do the same. During a test in class on April 10th, the same teacher pointed to boys in the class as examples and demanded that I be like them. One of those boys said to me, 'In Islam, people like you are cursed and should be killed.' At that time, the teacher, seeing my distress and tears, told me not to cry like a wife but to cry like a man and not to be dramatic," Aleks recounted.

Despite experiencing these incidents, Aleks returned to school after the third week of May, where the attitude towards them had not changed. In fact, the teachers spread false rumors about them, saying, "Aleks is influenced by America," "He is associated with some organization," "They teach him to do such things at school," "He is financially supported," "He does these things to go abroad." They accused Aleks of having connections with the "Voice of America" media outlet, claiming that they provoked them.

After these rumors, Aleks stopped going to school and suspended their education.

"At the end of May, the police, the Ministry of Education, and the Executive Authority had sent their final responses to the Ombudsman. However, only the response from the Ministry of Education and the Executive Authority was satisfactory," Aleks said.

According to the information provided by the Ministry of Education and Science to the Ombudsman's office, the parent of the 11th-grade student who harassed Aleks was invited to the school, and preventive discussions were held with both the student and their parent. As a result, the student recognized their mistakes and apologized to Aleks.

The geography teacher, Sevda Ismayilova, received disciplinary action for violating the teacher-student relationship and ethical standards.

The Yasamal District Executive Authority reported to the Ombudsman's office that the 11th-grade student who harassed Aleks was added to the list of at-risk individuals under the jurisdiction of the Commission for the Affairs and Protection of the Rights of Minors.

"Despite the police acknowledging my complaints and requesting an apology from the individuals involved, they did not find any criminal elements and wanted to close the case. So, I had to lodge a complaint with the Ombudsman's office again. After my complaint, the Ombudsman's office informed me that they would forward the case to Sabina Aliyeva. The police will be re-questioned in the near future. The final stage is the court," Aleks explained.

Legal expert Samad Rahimli stated that criminal liability was not considered for the harassment. Therefore, the refusal of the police to initiate a criminal case is legally significant.

"In this case, the responsibility lies with the parent of the student who harassed them. The parent should legally file a claim for damages, and the teacher of School No. 225 bears disciplinary responsibility for allowing the harassment. In such cases, disciplinary action may involve a reprimand and dismissal from the position, depending on the severity of the disciplinary offense. The school may consider disciplinary action as a resolution, but given the evidence, I would say that raising claims regarding both the obligations related to harm and increasing the severity of the disciplinary offense can be imposed on the school as responsibility," Samad Rahimli explained.

Aleks, who continues to suffer from the effects of harassment, hopes that once a criminal case is initiated, the matter will be fully resolved, and they will continue to fight until they receive real solutions rather than formal ones from the system.

Prepared by Sahar Cahan

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