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The law that bars sexual offenders from employment in schools is not being enforced with regard to substitute teachers, the National Council for the Child has said. Unlike new regular teaching staff who are accepted at schools, the council said in many instances temporary teaching staff is not required to provide certification from the police that they have no criminal record of sex offenses.

The Education Ministry was not able to state yesterday how many substitute teachers work in Israel's schools but said it is thought to be in the thousands.

The ministry said in addition: "In cases in which teachers are accepted through the schools, the principals are obligated to act in accordance with the law and ministry regulations in this matter, and require the candidate to provide certification that he or she does not have a sex offense record."

The Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee is conducting hearings today on difficulties involved in implementing the law.

Temporary school staff have reported that no one has conducted a background check on them before they began teaching. One substitute teacher from the center of the country commented: "It's enough for someone who wants to get near children to dress up and speak nicely and the school will agree to have him work there. It's a very worrying situation."

The law prohibiting the employment of sex offenders at institutions providing services to minors was passed in 2001 and went into effect two years later. The law prohibits such employment of anyone convicted of a sex offense who is sentenced to a year or longer in prison. It also requires that the police certify that there is no reason to bar employment of a prospective employee. New teachers are required to provide this confirmation and the Education Ministry conducts its own investigation of student teachers.

One elementary school principal from the south confirmed: "A new teacher must present confirmation from the police, and I also require the municipality to provide confirmation regarding workers it employs who come to the school, such as construction workers, but no one checks the substitute teachers."

A substitute teacher from the Modi'in area recounted that he contacted the junior high that he attended as a student and asked for temporary employment. "After a short interview of a few minutes," he said, "the assistant principal sent me to teach a science class. In addition to not asking me for police certification, I don't know a thing about science."

The director general of the National Council for the Child, Yitzhak Kadman, said the law regarding the employment of sex offenders in schools is of major importance, but added "it has no value if it is not enforced."