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No appeal against annulment of school leaving examination unconstitutional?

At the end of February and in early March 2013, more than ten secondary school graduates lodged constitutional complaints with the Constitutional Tribunal requesting the constitutional review of the law not allowing for any appeal against a decision to annul secondary school leaving examination.

In 2011, a chemistry exam taken by 53 students of a secondary school in Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski had been annulled. According to the examiners, some examinees relied on third party’s help when sitting the examination. Their conclusions came from the comparison of examination papers made after the end of the exam.

The examinees unsuccessfully attempted to appeal against the decision to the Minister of National Education. They also applied to the Head of the Circuit Examination Board in Łódź. They failed to obtain access to reports of their examination evaluation and the evaluation criteria. The students also weren’t given an opportunity to read internal regulations of the Circuit Examination Board in Łódź which set forth the procedures applicable to cases where examiners discover that examinees used someone else’s help on an examination.

Similarly, administrative courts of both instances refused to hear the complaints of secondary school graduates, relying, among other things, on art. 9c of the Education System Act. The article says that grades awarded in a secondary school leaving examination are final and may not be subject to an appeal to an administrative court.

The complainants seek the Constitutional Tribunal to find that the absence of an appeal procedure against a decision to annul the secondary school leaving examination violates the constitutionally guaranteed right to a court and, in consequence, also the right to education, good name and to make decisions about your personal life. They also contend that a denial of access to reports and documents relating to the annulment of the examination which they sat violates their constitutional right to access to official documents and collections of their personal data and is contrary to the rules of good administration respecting the principles of social justice.

“This is a landmark case of profound significance for all secondary school students taking end-of-school examinations”, says Paweł Osik, HFHR’s counsel in administrative proceedings. The Foundation joined in the proceedings as a community organisation.

“The situation in which an examinee can’t appeal against a decision determining their future, and have no access to official documents relating to their case, violates the standards of a democratic state and procedural justice”, adds Mr Osik.

The complainants in the proceedings pending before the Constitutional Tribunal are represented pro bono by a team of lawyers led by advocate Mikołaj Pietrzak of Pietrzak & Sidor.

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