YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The principal of a Yerevan boarding school was dismissed on Monday following the imprisonment of one of its former teachers convicted of sexually and physically abusing female students.
Science and Education Minister Armen Ashotian, who personally signed a relevant order, cited provisions of Armenia’s Labor Code dealing with “loss of trust” in an employee.
Ashotian’s decision to fire Meruzhan Yengibarian was announced one week after Levon Avagian, a former teacher of the school located in Yerevan’s southern Nubarashen suburb, was sentenced to two years in prison committing “violent obscene acts” against minors. Avagian protested his innocence at the start of his trial in late April but subsequently pleaded guilty to the accusation.
Narine Hovannisian, a senior official at the Armenian Ministry of Science and Education, confirmed that Yengibarian was fired because of the court ruling. “We were waiting for the verdict,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “The court proved that the teacher is guilty of committing that deed, and as a result of a discussion we arrived at the conclusion since because Meruzhan Yengibarian managed the school at that time he can not be trusted anymore.”
Hovannisian said the principal is responsible for the student abuse even assuming that he was not aware of Avagian’s alleged actions. “If a thing like that happens in an institution run by you, then I think you should be punished,” she said. “A school principal bears responsibility for every child.”
Both Yengibarian and Avagian strongly denied any wrongdoing when the scandal broke out in late 2008. It was triggered by a group of young civic activists who worked as volunteers at the Nubarashen school for children with special needs from April-June 2008. They said afterwards that some schoolgirls alleged abuse at the hands of Avagian.
Mariam Sukhudian, a leader of the environment protection group SOS Teghut, videotaped one of those girls and alerted Armenian media about her claims. Sukhudian was charged last summer with “false denunciation,” a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. But a mounting public uproar led state prosecutors to order the Yerevan police to drop the extremely controversial charge and prosecute Avagian instead.