Margus Reiland, an attorney-at-law of LEXTAL, represented a family in a dispute with the Tallinn Education Department, whose child was refused to be assigned to the geographically closest, Tallinn School No 21 (the school is located next door to the family’s place of residence), but was assigned a school located more than a kilometer away so that the child would have to cross several dangerous roads on the school trip.
The current system for assigning school places undoubtedly allows for strange and illegal results. As in the present case, for example, a child living next door to a school could be deprived of a school place because the automatic preference for siblings has filled a large number of vacancies. However, the Tallinn Circuit Court rightly found that both criteria provided by law (sister-brother and proximity to the place of residence) are of equal importance, and the Education Department must consider which of them is preferable in each individual case. Thus, this is a significant change in the current practice of assigning schools, which will ultimately make the situation fairer for children and parents.
The Tallinn Education Department did not miss the fundamental court decision either, but the sworn advocate Reiland doubts whether the innovations made by the Education Department have been sufficient to follow the guidelines set out in the court decision and ensure the legality of the assignment of school places.
In the case of the new procedure, it is a good thing that the sibling’s study at the same school does not automatically guarantee the child a place at school (especially in situations where the sibling is already studying, for example, in the 12th grade). It is also assessed whether the sibling is studying at the same study place and living at the same address.
At the same time, the problem remains that each administrative procedure must be substantive, and the circumstances must be considered in the context of each individual case, including a comprehensive assessment of the evidence. The (constitutional) question also remains whether the mandatory taking of an entry of the place of residence according to the population register always produces a legitimate result, especially when the actual evidence confirms another place of residence (the so-called problem of pseudo entries in the population register). Substantive approach, substantive control should be preferred, and, in the opinion of the sworn advocate, it is also supported by the Constitution and the principle of reconciling work and family life. In addition, the new wording of the procedure is legally unclear, which complicates the Education Department’s own life.
Thus, it can be said that the Education Department has done “half the calculation.” Important issues still deserve to be addressed and regulated in order to ensure the real legitimacy of the assignation of school places.