Olegs Lisenoks, a former teacher at the Aleksandrova Special School in the village of Konstatinova, Latgale region, was given a two-and-a-half year suspended sentence on Oct. 23 for abusing 23 children over a period of five years. The international children's rights group Save the Children has appealed the limited sentence to the prosecutor general.
Among the charges brought against Lisenoks were the punishment methods he used against his students. This included taking them outside in winter and ordering them to strip down to their underwear and run back to the school.
He was also found to have hit the children in the stomach, slammed their heads into walls and pulled their hair.
Since September, Lisenoks was also employed as a Russian language teacher at a boarding school in the village of Tilza, also in Latgale, but resigned from that position on Nov. 5. The director of that school insisted he was unaware of the controversy surrounding Lisenoks when he hired him.
"We had a great need for staff and I thought he demonstrated a good knowledge of languages. I didn't know about the situation in Aleksandrova," explained Antons Macans, director of the boarding school. "I consider him a professional. He had positive references both from colleges and children. Even now the children are satisfied with his work. We took a poll in the school."
After Lisenoks was charged with child abuse at the Aleksandrova school, the national education inspectorate began to evaluate Macans as well.
"At the time I employed Lisenoks there was no court adjudication," says Macans.
Liesma Neipreisa, a senior education inspector in Balvi, believes Macans did know about the charges against Lisenoks.
"I know Macans was looking for staff, but I don't believe he was not aware of the Aleksandrova events. We recently held a special boarding school inspection, and the Tilza school was also checked out. I could reproach him for not consulting us about new staff. We know teachers available."
The Law on Education includes a paragraph stating that an individual who has been adjudicated for a crime must not be employed as a teacher. If an appeal has been submitted the penalty should remain in effect.
On Nov. 2 the prosecutor's office for the town of Kraslava lodged an appeal with the Latgale Regional Court.
The Baltic Times asked Arvids Ozerskis, Kraslava district judge, why Lisenoks received such a relatively light suspended sentence for the abuse of 23 children.
"Why? Do you think I should give him a life sentence?" Ozerskis protested. "The judgment was made by a good panel. Lisenoks got only a positive characterization and I could not pass another judgment. There is no need to make a great hullabaloo."
The prosecution demanded that Lisenoks be given a three-year jail sentence, but the court ruled for a lighter term on the grounds that he had no previous criminal record.
Lisenoks' case was one of three opened over physical and sexual abuse at the Alekandrova special boarding school after Save the Children interfered.