A case initiated with regard to the regulations that provide for remote learning process in schools also after the end of the emergency situation
On 9 July 2021, the 2nd Panel of the Constitutional Court initiated the case “On compliance of paragraph 8 of Section 4(1) of the Law on the Management of the Spread of COVID-19 Infection, paragraphs 11 and 124 of Section 1 and paragraph 45 of Section 14 of the Education Law, as well as sub-paragraph 27.1.3, paragraph 327(2) and (3) of the Cabinet of Ministers Regulation No 360 of 9 June 2020 ‘Epidemiological Safety Measures for the Containment of the Spread of COVID-19 Infection’ with Article 112 of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia”.
Paragraph 8 of Section 4(1) of the Law on the Management of the Spread of COVID-19 Infection provides that if the COVID-19 infection spreads or there is a threat that it could spread, the Cabinet, for epidemiological safety purposes, may determine the conditions and procedures for the organisation of educational process, including those for ensuring the learning process remotely.
Paragraph 11 of Section 1 of the Education Law provides that remote learning is a part of the full-time studies process, in which the students learn – inter alia, with the help of information and communication technologies – without being physically present in the same room or place of learning with the teacher.
Paragraph 124 of the same section provides that full-time studies are a form of educational process in which a student is acquiring the content of education in accordance with the educational programme implemented by an educational institution by attending that institution, which includes learning remotely.
Paragraph 45 of Section 14 of the same law provides that the procedures for organising and implementing remote learning are determined by the Cabinet of Ministers.
Sub-paragraph 27.1.3 of the Cabinet of Ministers Regulation No 360 of 9 June 2020 “Epidemiological Safety Measures for the Containment of the Spread of COVID-19 Infection” (hereinafter – Regulation No 360) stipulates in what circumstances the institutions, except for colleges and higher schools, may organise the educational process partly or fully remotely.
According to paragraph 327(2) of Regulation No 360, as of 7 April 2021, in education and sports, the in-person (on-site) learning process is suspended in all educational institutions, and remote learning is ensured, except for the cases referred to in this sub-paragraph.
Paragraph 327(3) of Regulation No 360 stipulates, among other things, when the learning process for grades 1–6 and 12, and, by rotation, for grades 7–9 and 10–11, as well as individual classes in the vocational orientation education programmes, may be organised on site.
Provision of Superior Legal Force
Article 112 of the Constitution (Satversme) of the Republic of Latvia (hereinafter – the Constitution): “Everyone has the right to education. The State shall ensure that everyone may acquire primary and secondary education without charge. Primary education shall be compulsory.
Facts of the Case
The case has been initiated on the basis of an application filed by several school students. The Applicants are school students of different ages acquiring lower secondary education and general upper secondary education. From 12 March 2020 until 9 June 2020 and from 9 November 2020 until 6 April 2021, the whole territory of Latvia was in an emergency situation, declared in view of the spread of the Covid-19 infection, during which time the learning process was taking place remotely. According to the Applicants, they are aware that an emergency situation is a special legal regime under which the rights of individuals may be restricted substantially for reasons of public interest. However, in line with the contested provisions, the Applicants continued to acquire education remotely also after the end of the emergency situation.
Allegedly, as a result of the remote learning process, the quality of education has dropped, and the Applicants’ education is impeded in certain other ways.
Therefore, the contested provisions, by providing for remote learning also after the end of the emergency situation, restrict the possibilities and the accessibility of education and thus violate Article 112 of the Constitution.
The Constitutional Court has requested the bodies which adopted the contested provisions – the Saeima and the Cabinet of Ministers – to submit a written reply stating the facts of the case and the legal reasoning by 9 September 2021.
- The case is to be prepared by 9 December 2021.
The Court will decide on the type of proceedings and the date of hearing once the case has been prepared.
The decision to initiate the case is available here.
Press release in PDF is available here.
Linked case: 2021-33-0103