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‘Another attack of paranoia’ Community group seeks administrative charges against Moscow school for allegedly violating Russia’s ‘gay propaganda’ law

Source: Meduza

On November 23, Olga Baranets — the so-called “public commissioner for the protection of the family” from a St. Petersburg-based community group — filed a police report requesting that administrative charges be brought against the director of School Number 962 in Moscow for violating Russia’s “gay propaganda” law. Baranets claimed that teachers at the school instructed students in a fifth grade class to draw rainbows as an LGBTQ symbol. According to parents and teachers however, the drawings were part of a lesson marking the International Day of Tolerance (November 16) and the subject of LGBTQ people was never actually raised in class.

Who is Olga Baranets?

Olga Baranets holds the position of “public commissioner for the protection of the family” — a “community service” formerly called the “public commissioner for children’s rights.” It was founded in 2015 at the Conference of parents, patriots, Orthodox, veterans, and other St. Petersburg communities. The commissioner was elected by the Council of Public Organizations of St. Petersburg, an organization made up of seven people, three of whom are activists from the conservative movement Narodny Sobor; a fourth member is potentially linked to an organization that ordered an analysis of rapper Egor Kreed’s work.

In June, Baranets appealed to police officials and Roskomnadzor (Russia’s federal censorship agency) requesting administrative charges against representatives of the video service more.tv for “LGBT and feminist propaganda” (in particular, Baranets took issue with more.tv’s release of the show Chiki). The appeal appears to have led to nothing. 

On her organization’s website, Olga Baranets reported that she had requested that the Moscow school’s leadership be held accountable “for promoting sexual perversion” during a lesson called “Let’s live together!” that was taught to a fifth grade class on November 16. The lesson was timed to coincide with the International Day of Tolerance.

During the lesson, the children were given compulsory assignments to draw LGBT symbols as a sign of tolerance and respect for non-conforming individuals [gay people]. [...] As you can see from the photographs, the teacher showed the colors of the LGBT flag on the blackboard and explained their meaning, the children’s drawings contain the same inscription: “do not judge people, appreciate them,” the colors of the LGBT flag are [also] present. 

Baranets included several photographs taken during the lesson as “evidence.” In one of the pictures, the teacher is standing next to the image of a multi-colored flower, in another a girl is holding a drawing of a heart containing six of the colors of the rainbow. Some of the children can be seen holding drawings of multi-colored flowers, while others hold drawings of the earth.

The parents of the fifth graders who took part in the lesson claim that the topic of LGBTQ people wasn’t raised in class. “There was no talk of gays and lesbians,” the mother of one of the schoolchildren told the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets. “Based on the results of the lesson, the children were asked to draw any drawing on the theme of tolerance. No one forced the children to draw a rainbow specifically, much less LGBT people, but some of the drawings were in rainbow colors,” she said.

The mother of another child made similar comments in conversation with the website Gazeta.ru. “[My] child came home happy, smiling, and talked about an interesting lesson. I didn’t hear any mention of minorities, though I’m sure my son would have shared it if he had heard [anything],” she said. 

The director of School Number 962, Larisa Polyakova, told Moskovsky Komsomolets that during the lesson the children “reflected their emotional impressions in drawings, painting them with the colors of the rainbow. “The rainbow is a symbol of the international movement for peace and there is no hidden subtext in the events, the information from the teacher, or the children’s drawings,” Polyakova underscored. 

Russia’s Presidential Council for Human Rights sided with the school teachers, Gazeta.ru writes. Igor Kalyapin, a member of the Human Rights Council who heads the Committee against Torture, said that Baranets’ initiative can be seen as “another attack of paranoia” among socially responsible citizens. In turn, another member of the council, Civil Rights Committee Chairman Andrey Babushkin, said that in this situation the “idea of banning the promotion of homosexuality among children has been taken to the point of absurdity.”

The Moscow Education Department and Moscow police officials have yet to comment on the controversy.

We won’t give up Because you’re with us

Story by Alexander Baklanov

Translation by Eilish Hart

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