Fourteen Roma children took their schools to court after they were put in segregated classes. The children considered this to be racial discrimination.
The pupils also complained that the quality of the education they received was worse than in non-Roma classes.
Drop-out rates among young Roma children were far higher than for non-Roma pupils where the schools were located. Most Roma children in the area said they felt unaccepted at school. Many expressed the simple wish to have a non-Roma child as a friend.
Despite this, the schools insisted that all pupils were treated equally, claiming that the children were grouped together not because of their Roma ethnic origin, but because they did not understand the Croatian language well enough.
A Croatian court agreed with the schools and dismissed the case.
Lawyers for the children then appealed to Croatia’s top court, which, after a four-year wait, ruled that the schools’ actions were not discriminatory.
The children decided to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights.