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Students Shouldn't Have to Pledge Obligations to Their Cities, Ministry Says

Children and parents have complained that they were not given a say in the wording of the pledges that students in Tel Aviv and several other cities are being asked to sign.

Schools should not require students to sign a pledge spelling out the obligations of children and teens to the city in which they live and the city's obligations to them, the Education Ministry has announced.

Children and parents have complained that they were not given a say in the wording of the pledges that students in Tel Aviv and several other cities are being asked to sign.

"Students should not be required to sign a document unless they, their parents and the school educational staff have been involved," the ministry said in a statement. "The ministry is committed to upholding the international Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Israel signed in 1991."

Asher Elon, who heads the National Student and Youth Council, said he couldn't understand why young people weren't asked for their input.

"Two sides should have been involved in the process - students and adults," he said yesterday. "It's tough to understand why we weren't involved in writing the pledge."

The Tel Aviv municipality said in a statement that it has not been pressuring local schools to refrain from criticizing the pledge. It added that 15,000 local students had signed the pledge in school and 5,000 had signed the pledge online.

The pledge is a NIS 400,000 project of the Tel Aviv municipality that was first written two years ago by Asa Kasher, a philosophy professor at Tel Aviv University who wrote the Israel Defense Forces' ethics code.

The initiative was recently expanded to include other cities, including Haifa, Be'er Sheva, Herzliya, Ashdod, Ra'anana and Netanya. As part of the expansion, tens of thousands of copies were sent out to students in those cities and high schools taught about the pledge.

Kasher previously told Haaretz that students first got involved when they discussed the pledge in Tel Aviv schools.

"We have so far received no problematic feedback," he said. "If something needed to be changed or fixed we would have done so, but that didn't come up."

However, the Tel Aviv municipality said slight changes were made in response to feedback from local youth.

Half the eight clauses of the pledge spell out each city's obligations and half spell out those of the children and teens. Kasher wrote a different version of the pledge for each city.

The cities commit to "respect each girl and boy as human beings" and to "protect the natural environment of children's lives in the city." The children and teens pledge to "respect all human beings as human beings," to "always behave in a way that does not endanger one's own life and health or those of others" and to "protect the environment of life in the city."

Yaara Shapira, a student council member at Ironi Dalet High School in Tel Aviv, argued in an op-ed in yesterday's Haaretz that there "is nothing less practical than a covenant whose content is intentionally vague, and nobody is designated to oversee its implementation."

She suggested that instead of making do with a general statement about not endangering students' health, the pledge should give specific examples, like a requirement that the city would not allow students to study in classrooms without air conditioning in the summer or heating in the winter.