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Parents in a moshav in southern Israel are keeping their children home from kindergarten at their moshav until and after the Hanukkah break because of what they describe as the violent behavior of a 7-year-old child enrolled in the kindergarten.

The parents say they are shutting down the kindergarten in protest against inaction by the Education Ministry and other authorities in the matter.

"We have a terrible problem," said the mother of another child in the class."At the beginning of the year, a boy from another moshav came to the kindergarten. One day I come to the kindergarten and see the boy pulling another boy and knocking him down. There was even a case where he choked a girl."

The mother said children told the parents that the boy receives candy and good behavior tokens and then "we understood he was receiving reinforcement for positive behavior."

Parents also said the boy spits into the food plates of other children.

After they approached the Education Ministry about the child, he was assigned a classroom assistant. "At the moment the child is with the assistant who keeps him in a side room away from the class, with games that our children don't have," said the mother. "From time to time, he is allowed to call in other children to play with him, and he has become the king of the class."

The mother also said the parents feel their children have become the "system's guinea pigs" and that the boy should not be in the kindergarten.

In one case, the father of another child said, the classroom assistant gave the boy a prize for good behavior in front of the class. "My boy said he also wants to be special. The children are jealous and some are becoming violent only so they can get prizes," the father said.

In response to their complaints, the father said, the Education Ministry said the situation was being taken care of but that then "to our surprise, last Thursday the teacher called a meeting of the parents to explain how we should deal with the situation until the end of the year."

Special program

The attorney for the boy's family, Limor Asulin, said the boy has gone through four different diagnostic tests and found to be functioning at a relatively high level for his age. He said he communicates and is well-liked by his peers. The only directive given to his teacher last year and this year was to prepare a special program for him, according to the lawyer, which is only now being implemented.

Asulin said the parents are making up stories about the boy's situation and that experts have determined there is no problem with his attending regular kindergarten.

Asulin also said that last week a group of parents came to the kindergarten and threatened the boy if he didn't stop hitting other children.

They also asked him whether he took Ritalin. She said the boy was very frightened, and that eventually an Education Ministry official came to the kindergarten and calmed things down.

The Education Ministry said experts, both from the Education Ministry and the local authority, are keeping a close watch over the kindergarten, which is being given special funding so all its needs are met. The ministry also said it is not the parents who can decide what educational framework is most suitable for a child.