For a Romanian law on compulsory legal education in schools
The main arguments that made ASUM take a stand and make a law proposal for the introduction of legal education in schools are
– the fact that young people are legally responsible starting from the age of 14, according to art. 99 of Romania’s Constitution
– the increase in the figures of juvenile delinquency.
Some studies that ASUM carried out in 2008 in the city of Brasov highlighted the fact that violence and schools and juvenile delinquency are on the increase. Out of the 80 000 pupils enrolled in the Brasov Department Academy, 40 000 were subject to disciplinary measures, 900 were expelled, and 1600 proposed for expelling.
ASUM wanted therefore to check whether these pupils understand the legal impact of their deeds, or if they have a minimim legal background, such as minimum knowledge about the notions of petty crime, legal responsibility, the types of crime, the rule of law.
That was the context in which the project „Liberty – Responsibility” was set up, in cooperation with the highschools from Brasov.
The main idea of the project was to raise awareness among the youth on the responsibility they have when committing anti-social behaviour acts.
The project was carried out in three stages:
– Prezentation of the project to the teaching personnel (School director, class tutor) and creation of the target groups (mainly troublesome young people already having anti-social behaviour)
– organization of a preliminary meeting intended to assess the needs in terms of legal, civil or psychological support
2.-Common meeting among pupils and offenders that took place within the school premices. Pupils got the opportunity to talk to offenders sentenced to prison for anto-social behaviour acts.
3.-Visit of groups of pupils to the Codlea Penitentciary that allowed them to experience the living conditions in prison. The message was perceived as being very tought but at the same time highly educative.
Almost 300 pupils participated in the project between June 2008 and December 2009. Thez project benefitted from the support of the Brasov City hall and the Codlea Penitentiary, but was carried out with ASUM own funding and staff. the ASUM members that carried out these activites were judges, psychologists, sociologists, lawyers, probation councilors.
A meeting with all the participants in the project and the teaching staff was organized at the end of 2008. The conclusions were unanimous in confirming that the lack of legal education favoured the juvenile delinquency.
A.S.U.M. has therefore sent a letter to the Education Commission of the Romanian Parliament in which they highlighted the need for legal education in Romanian schools. Here are the main arguments :
Considering the important biological and psychological changes they undergo, teenagers can easily become subject to bad influences and can make the wrong choices.
Authorities have started to show concern for a the psychological needs of pupils by hiring psychologist in schools. Yet, up to present, nobody showed any concern for the level of knowledge on legal provisions concerning minors. ASUM considers it urgent that the State should take a stand and provide legal education to minors, so that these latter can better understand their rights, liberties and obligations, according the State’s constitution.
Romanian penal code stipulates that minors become legally responsible of their acts at the age of 14. Nevertheless, there is no institutional scheme intended to educate them in relation to their legal responsibility. That usually occurs after the law was already broken.
Considering the high degree of difficulty of all the subjects that are part of the actual curricula in schools, we can assume that it would be rathr beneficial to all the pupils to also have some courses on legal education, provided by legal advisers that have a sound pedagogical background. We must underline the importance of the teachers’ training on legal aspects.
The expected impact of these courses would be a higher degree of awareness raising among pupils, who will be able to make their choices and better maange their lives. This might also convince some of them to follow a legal career.
The long term impact of that would also be the creation of new jobs in the education environment, thus the reduction of the unemployment rates, and that fact that all education actors would benefit from more information on the legal system and constitutional provisions in romania.
Considering all these arguments, A.S.U.M. members support the introduction of a law on compulsory legal training in all Romania’s middle schools and highschools.
Legal adviser Ionuţ SPĂTARU