The boom of multiple births in Spain (in 2015, the latest data available from the INE, were 110% more than two decades earlier) is filling the classrooms of twins who, when they go to school, encounter, in the absence of regulations, the decision of many centers to separate them by system, appealing to the supposed strengthening of their respective identities. Faced with this decision, more and more families are demanding that they be heard and go to court or administrative claim. The battle of the parents has already twisted the arm to some centers, to which the autonomous governments delegate this decision. Pressed by a Lugo family, the Xunta has sent this course a recommendation to schools to have parents; a decision shared by a part of the teachers, pedagogues and social educators but that questions the Professional Association of Pedagogues and Psychopedagogues of Galicia (APEGA), who believes that the Galician Executive has "doubled" before the "exaggerated desire for protection" of the parents.
Spurred by the Valedora do Pobo (Defender of the People) whom Lidia Feal appealed to, mother of twins from Viveiro (Lugo), the Galician Government has urged this course to the centers to decide in consensus with the families whether or not they should separate the siblings from multiple births, as is already happening in Madrid. The Ministry of Education explains that as long as "no regulation is established or there is conclusive scientific evidence", the decision "should not be based on a priori in the norms of organization and operation of the centers "but it must be adopted" in each particular case in a flexible and open manner, with revisable character, with a consensus among parents, teachers and guidance services, based on the best interests of the minors ".
In this way, the twins of Feal have managed to share the classroom for the first time this course, already in Primary. "They are delighted, very pleasantly surprised to be able to do their homework together," says her mother, happy to have won a battle that cost her "five years of hard work", for which she had the support and advice of the Association of Nais e Pais Association (ANPAS) Galegas, that encouraged her to go to the Valedora do Pobo before the court. After years of tug-of-war, the Xunta ended up yielding to the request of the supporter.
The demand of the Lugo family was supported by the Colexio of Educators and Educators Sociais de Galicia (Ceesg), who issued a report in which he emphasizes that "classroom sharing will not prevent the brothers from developing their own personality" and that, when it comes to schooling, "each case in particular must be assessed, the families' decisions must be respected and the evolution observed. of children "to value" if it means a benefit or a loss ".
Faced with this, APEGA psychopedagogues believe that "it is a mistake" to keep the multiples together after four years. The president of the collective, José Manuel Suárez, understands that at three years it does not matter if they share a classroom because "children are still not aware of their own identity and, for them, they are all brothers: they relate to everyone equally". And it affirms that the insistence of the parents in keeping them together obeys to an "exaggerated desire to protect the children" that, it maintains, "is not since they are a scarce good, but of luxury".
Society "overprotective in excess"
"We live in an overprotective society in excess in which helicopter parents [los que controlan constantemente a sus hijos], they raise dependent beings ", affirms the president of the Galician pedagogues. "Of course, as a couple you feel more protected and complemented than alone, but in real life these children are not going to have their brother by their side deciding or executing for them; they must be prepared to face their own lives, "he adds, convinced that families are" exerting harassment "on the administrations that" end up doubling ".
However, not all schools separate these brothers, although they listen little to the parents. In the use of that same power that the Administration gives them, some take into account the opinion of the parents. In the case of Galicia, the analysis carried out by the Valedora do Pobo shows that most of these brothers come to the same classroom: 62% of the cases versus 38% in different units, although 30% is due to the fact that in the centers there is only one class per course. The report reflects, nevertheless, that the Galician schools take into account the criterion of the parents in 36% of the cases.
The sentence of Badajoz
The recommendation of the Xunta to have families is not the first that has occurred in Spain. In 2017, a judge from Badajoz dictated a judgment in which a school from Extremadura, which insisted on separating them, was forced to school twins together. The magistrate gave the reason to the family based on a report by a psychologist, a psychologist and a social worker, who conclude that it is best to "go together."
The ruling says that a center "can not separate twins just for being". The resolution, a pioneer in Spain, made it clear that schools "must be flexible". That same year, the Community of Madrid became the first to give freedom of choice to the parents. He sent an instruction to schools in which he urged them to listen and listen to the families' criteria, even though his opinion was not binding. However, this guideline, also collected in writing in the instructions for beginning the course, ran into the organizational autonomy of the centers and many of them appealed to their internal rules to breach it. This course, the council of Madrid has reiterated its recommendation, but with greater forcefulness, by eliminating the phrase that the parents' opinion is not binding.
Meritxell Palou, a therapist and mother of twins propelling the movement Multiple Together at School, ensures that it receives numerous complaints of the violation of that instruction and appeals to the approval of a general regulation to avoid these situations and comparative grievances. On his Facebook page, Palou includes testimonies from parents who continue to fight so that their option of not separating their children is taken into account. It is the case of the Cucalon family that collects signatures in Change.org so that the center Miguel Delibes of San Sebastián de los Reyes (Madrid) will listen to them, as recommended by the regional government. It is not the only one that has resorted to collecting signatures as a measure of pressure.
Others affected expose their difficulties on Palou's Facebook page. "Yesterday I had the fourth meeting with the school director, this time with tutors and another teacher. They have denied me the request to be joined again even though one of my children is having a very bad time. I do not know what to do anymore, I feel defeated and totally useless for not getting it, "says a mother.
"There are children who suffer setbacks"
Separating them against their criteria supposes "penalizing affectivity", protests Lidia Feal, which is subscribed by Dutch child psychologist Coks Feenstra, author of Great book of the twins, who works with these children born of multiple births for two decades in Valencia. Feenstra is clear that there is no general rule regarding the convenience of grouping or not these brothers and warning that separating them at school at a young age "is harmful and is based on myths."
"Studies show that children have a hard time and I see in my practice that many suffer setbacks, anxiety, withdrawal and worse academic results. If you separate a child who is not prepared for it, you create even more dependence on his brother, "says the psychologist, who recommends separation after four years" only in the case that one is very dominant and drag the other " Feenstra believes that it is necessary to assess the situation again after six years.
The specialist refers to the research carried out by Nancy Segal, evolutionary psychologist and geneticist of the behavior of the California State University, which explains that children of multiple births usually look with their eyes in class to feel safe. Feenstra also cites the most recent study, conducted in 2014 by Lynn M. Gordon, prOfesora of the Department of Education of the California State University (Northridge), about the beliefs of directors regarding the location of twins in class at the beginning of their school stage, at four or five years in the US.
The research reveals that 71% of the directors were in favor of the separation and 84% thought that this favored the development of the individuality of the twins, while 62% of the parents preferred, at the beginning of the school stage, his twins in the same class, although 58% were separated. 27% of the directors admitted that they imposed this measure against the will of the parents.
Joan Gamero, member of Pedagogy of the Col.legi de Pedagogs de Catalunya and director and head of the Department of Mediation in the school L'Oreig de Pallejà, opts for nuances in a matter in which, he says, "neither everything is white nor everything is black". Gamero is based on his personal experience (12 courses as a director and 20 as a teacher) in his center, where the multiple have no choice but to share a classroom because there is only one line of Infant, to indicate that "it does not harm them at all" . Despite this, it does not have to be negative to separate them from class if they do well, "although not like that".
In any case, the specialist understands that this "is not an issue that should be in favor or against." It is enough, he says, with "listening to parents" that they should "exercise their freedom of choice". In his opinion "it makes all the sense" that these brothers share class, "except in adolescence, where they do need to reinforce their own identity", because if the children want to be together, they will look for them at recesses. "Why separate them for five hours if the rest of the day is well together?" And in the event that problems arise when they share a classroom, "the center's psycho-pedagogy department will have to intervene, because it will be a sign that something is not going well," he says. Education, says Gamero, "is a balance in which the conceptual and the emotional must be 50%".