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Yerevan School Principal Fired Over Sex Abuse Scandal


Levon Avagian, the teacher at the center of the scandal, speaks at the start of his trial in April.

Levon Avagian, the teacher at the center of the scandal, speaks at the start of his trial in April.

YEREVAN -- The principal of a Yerevan boarding school for children with special needs has been dismissed following the imprisonment of a former teacher convicted of sexually and physically abusing female students, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The decision by Science and Education Minister Armen Ashotian to fire principal Meruzhan Yengibarian was announced on May 31. Ashotian, who personally signed the dismissal, cited provisions of Armenia's Labor Code dealing with "loss of trust" in an employee.

The announcement came one week after Levon Avagian, the former teacher, was sentenced to two years in prison for committing "violent obscene acts" against minors. Avagian had maintained his innocence at the start of his trial in late April, but later pleaded guilty to the charges.

Narine Hovannisian, a senior official at the Ministry of Science and Education, confirmed that principal Yengibarian was fired because of the court ruling.

"We were waiting for the verdict," she told RFE/RL. "The court proved the teacher is guilty of committing that deed. And as a result of a discussion, we arrived at the conclusion -- since Meruzhan Yengibarian managed the school at that time -- he cannot be trusted anymore."

"If a thing like that happens in an institution run by you, then I think you should be punished," she added. "A school principal bears responsibility for every child."

The abuse allegations were first brought to light by a group of young civic activists who worked as volunteers at the school from April through June 2008.

Volunteer Mariam Sukhudian videotaped one of the girls describing her ordeal and informed Armenian media about her claims.

Sukhudian was charged last summer with "false denunciation," a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. But following a public outcry, state prosecutors ordered police to drop the charge and prosecute Avagian instead.
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