Autistic Students Being Disciplined According to Rules for Regular Israeli Schools

After parents complain about suspensions, Knesset panel discovers Education Ministry has issued no guidelines for special education schools.

Autistic children are being suspended from school on the basis of Education Ministry directives written for regular schools, because no directives geared specifically toward special education schools have ever been issued, the Knesset Education Committee discovered Monday.

The committee was discussing the problem of autistic children being thrown out of school due to behavior problems, responding to a Haaretz report three weeks ago that detailed parental complaints about this problem.

The parents had told Haaretz of having their children suspended for lengthy periods from both special education schools and mainstreaming programs. They also said the schools refused to let the children return unless they were placed on strong medication.

Ministry representatives told the committee that directives appropriate for special-ed schools would be issued in another two months. But organizations that work with autistic children said the ministry has been promising these directives for three years, and has yet to deliver.

Committee chairman MK Amram Mitzna (Hatnuah) urged the ministry to issue the directives quickly, but said it should also clearly tell school principals to take into account the needs of children on the autistic spectrum. He questioned whether suspension is an appropriate punishment for the children in question.

Also Monday, AKIM, the National Association for the Habilitation of Children and Adults with Intellectual Disabilities, unveiled a new poll showing that 43 percent of Israelis think intellectually disabled people should be kept in special frameworks and separated from other people, while a quarter said they feared that intellectually challenged people were dangerous and liable to aggression.

Fully 60 percent of respondents said intellectually challenged people shouldn’t have children, and 47 percent said they had no right to decide on their own medical treatment.

In addition, 33 percent advocated depriving them of the right to vote, and 25 percent said they shouldn’t be allowed to have sex.

Moti Milrod