HERAKLION – Despite penalties up to two years in jail otherwise, some Greek parents are still refusing to send their children to schools in protest of COVID-19 health measures, with another arrested on Crete.
A 59-year-old man who was not named became the third parent on the island to face charges of neglecting their child’s education, which until the law was tightened over the pandemic had only a 59-euro ($67) fine.
Under the new legislation aimed at refusenik parents, arrest warrants can be issued as soon as a complaint is lodged by a school’s administration, with Cretan authorities previously detaining a 40-year-old woman and 47-year-old man, said Kathimerini.
Parents and guardians in Greece opposed to COVID-19 vaccines, masks and health measures who don’t send their children to school for at least the obligatory first nine grades can be charged under the stricter penalties.
The government earlier said that students who miss too many classes because of their parent’s resistance against health measures could find themselves held back a year and have to repeat the grade.
A reported 35 of them in the central city of Larissa face those consequences because of their anti-vaxxer parents who won’t provide school authorities with required negative tests either, the paper said in November, 2021.
That has led to the students being barred from going into the schools and officials warning it means they could be held back, school administrators said to have contacted parents to inform them it would happen if the students go past a permissible number of absences.
After some teachers in Greece’s schools were detained by police after being sued by anti-mask parents violating the country’s COVID-19 mandates, the practice was to be stopped.
The Citizen’s Protection Ministry, which has oversight of the police, said the teachers will be protected, not prosecuted for following the law which requires students to wear masks and stay safe social distances from each other in schools.
Students who aren’t vaccinated or who have proof of recovery from the Coronavirus are also supposed to show two negative tests weekly but rabid anti-vaxxers were suing teachers and assaulting school staff following the law.
Teachers and other staff in schools who aren’t vaccinated are required to pay for two molecular tests weekly at 10 euros ($11.73) but the New Democracy government hasn’t yet moved to make shots mandatory for them.
There’s been a barrage of suits against educators by Greece’s rabid anti-vaxxers which have put teachers in the dilemma of facing suits for following the law or for violating it if they allow in students without masks.
A 37-year old anti-vaxxer father in a Thessaloniki suburb attacked his son’s female school principal earlier when she asked for the youth to show a self test proving he was negative for the virus.
In December, 2021 Al Jazeera reported on the law being used to try to make parents send children to schools and follow the measures aimed at reining in the pandemic, which will enter a third year in March.
“We could not tolerate the phenomenon of parents keeping children from school,” Alexandros Koptsis, General-Secretary for primary and secondary education at the education ministry, told the news site. “This happens for inconceivable reasons, like not wanting your child to wear a mask,” he said.
“If a prosecutor deems it necessary, parents could even be deprived of custody,” Koptsis told a local radio station at the time, adding that it was based on law was “entirely up to prosecutors”.
The ministry will not pursue parents directly, but is providing headteachers with legal tools. “We are showing schools a general (policy) direction, and it will then be up to principals to call prosecutors,” Koptsis said.
Parents convicted with two-year imprisonment will not necessarily be severed from their children, because sentences of up to five years can be bought out at rates set by the courts, based on their income, the piece noted.
Prodromos Fotakidis, a high school teacher in Drama, told SKAI TV at the time that three of his students didn’t show up for the end of the last academic year.
“I was with one of the parents on campus,” he said. “He was one of those parents who dispute everything, saying self-tests are dangerous and offer no protection,” he added.