Polish lawmakers pass disputed bill increasing government control of schools

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki (R) speaks during a parliamentary debate on in the Sejm (lower house) in Warsaw, Poland. [EPA-EFE/Tomasz Gzell]

Poland’s Sejm on Thursday passed a bill by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, with 227 votes in favour and 214 against, which will step up government control of schools and which critics say could curb access to teaching on LGBTI and reproductive rights.

Under the new legislation, dubbed Lex Czarnek, extracurricular activities run by non-governmental organisations in schools will need to be approved by a government-appointed supervisor.

Education Minister Przemyslaw Czarnek has said supervisors should have the right to block any programming that would be “a threat to the morality of children”, in particular when it comes to sexual education.

The law would also make it easier to fire school principals.

The PiS argues the changes are needed to ‘protect children’, but opponents argue they are part of a broader effort to eliminate liberal values from public life and leave school administrators with their hands tied.

Left-wing lawmaker Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bak said on Twitter that instead of tackling depression or extreme poverty among Polish children, Minister Czarnek was working “on the politicisation of Polish schools.”

Since coming into power in 2015, the nationalist government has introduced a series of education reforms, claiming the need to defend traditional Christian values and teach children to be proud of Polish history.

The bill, which will now move to the opposition-dominated senate, might likely end up being rejected, which would leave the lower house of parliament to vote again before it goes to Poland’s President Andrzej Duda for signature.


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