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A high school student who was badly beaten up by a group of youngsters blames the education system for the violence he encountered.

"There's a direct correlation between [the system's] ignoring school violence and what happened to me," says Roi Kleiner, 18.

Kleiner and a few friends were returning from a night out in Tel Aviv six weeks ago when they met a group of youngsters who asked them for a cigarette. When they said they didn't have any, the youngsters attacked them. Kleiner was hospitalized with fractures in his face, broken teeth and hemorrhages.

"Had the education system dealt with the youngsters who attacked me when they were still in elementary school, this might have been prevented," he tells Haaretz.

The Education Ministry's recently published program to reduce violence and increase discipline in schools is a step in the right direction, Kleiner says.

The program allows teachers to remove a student from the classroom during the lesson, bans the use of cellular phones and electronic devices during class and toughens regulations dealing with disobedient students.

Kleiner says students' contempt for teachers begins in elementary school, when stronger children beat weaker ones, and worsens in junior high and high school.

"Dealing with violent children only once they reach high school is too late. If the new program allows teachers to act against any kind of violence at an early stage, maybe something will change," he says.

However, "punishment alone is not the answer. The schools must have professionals to deal with violence," Kleiner says.

An Education Ministry official says the new policy was formulated, among other things, in the wake of last year's Comptroller's Report, which slammed the ministry's lack of a clear policy on handling violence.

Members of the National Pupils and Youth Council, who met Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar last week, asked to increase students' participation in decisions that help reduce violence in schools.

"It's important to restore teachers' authority," says 11th grade student Tomer Shaked of Petah Tikva's Golda High School. "But when the Education Ministry talks of the need to strengthen discipline and reduce disruptions of lessons, one should remember that such disruptions are mostly linked to boring study programs or incompetent teachers."