scheiber - David Bachar - August 31 2010
Shimon Scheiber in court in May. The judge noted that the former principal had been a popular, admired figure in the city. Photo by David Bachar
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Shimon Scheiber, the former principal of the Amit-Amal high school in Rishon Letzion, was sentenced yesterday to a year in prison, for his conviction on a variety of sexual harassment charges. Scheiber, who also received a seven-month suspended sentence and was fined NIS 1,000, was convicted earlier this year in a plea bargain in the Rishon Letzion Magistrate's Court, after he admitted to sexually harassing and carrying out indecent acts on four women in the school. They included a teacher, a teaching assistant, the mother of one of a student, and a student who was a minor at the time.

The former principal, who voiced regret and remorse at the hearing yesterday, will also pay NIS 40,000 in compensation to each of the complainants.

According to the verdict, Scheiber abused the women's personal distress to try and make them have sex with him. The mother, the verdict said, approached the principal to ask him why the municipality wouldn't provide her son with bus tickets for travel to school. In their conversation, Scheiber told the woman she seemed sexually unsatisfied, and suggested they have sex. He also hugged her and showed her pornographic video clips on his computer. The meeting was interrupted when someone knocked on the door, and the woman used the opportunity to escape the principal's office.

In another incident, a teaching assistant asked Scheiber to be assigned more work hours. He questioned her about her sex life and showed her Viagra pills, harassed her over the phone and with text messages, and yelled at her when she ignored him. At one meeting, he put his hand under her shirt, and on another he undressed her completely, and then carried out indecent acts. He was also convicted of hugging and kissing a teacher who came to warn him about rumors of his relations with the teaching assistant, without the teacher's agreement. The fourth complainant, an underage student at the time, was sent to the principal's office together with another student, a boy. When the boy left the room, Scheiber complimented the complainant's drawing skills, and spoke to her about sex and her sexual preferences. On another occasion he stroked her thigh. When the student asked the school counselor not to see the principal anymore, Sheiber called her to his room and shouted at her for betraying his trust in her.

The sentencing judge directed particular criticism at Meir Nitzan, the former mayor of Rishon Letzion, who testified as a character witness for Scheiber. "It seems that the order of things have been turned upside down, with the mayor essentially carrying out the orders of the accused," the judge wrote. He noted that that Nitzan "tried to avoid confronting the actions of the accused, to which the accused confessed ... I will ask only this: If the residents of Rishon Letzion, whom the mayor said the accused had helped, are important to the mayor, does he not care about these women and young girl whom the accused hurt sexually, physically and mentally?"

The judge pointed out that Scheiber's actions were all the worse for the fact he was a popular and much-admired figure in the city.