Fired Druze Teacher’s Suit Reveals Seemingly Discriminatory Practice

Rawda Shakour was dismissed despite court rulings that protect all teachers from dismissal before the end of the school year.

A suit filed by a Druze teacher has revealed what seems to be a discriminatory rule, which holds that Arab and Druze teachers can be fired up to a month after the school year begins if they were wrongly placed in a job due to Education Ministry error.

Rawda Shakour had been a special education teacher at a school in Kisra-Sumei for the last four years, then was fired shortly after the start of the current school year. With backing from the Teachers Union, she filed suit in the Haifa Labor Court to demand reinstatement and the striking down of the discriminatory rule.

On Tuesday, in its first hearing on her case, the court rejected the ministry’s request that the suit be dismissed. It also ordered the ministry to submit all the forms Shakour filled out to request a job placement.

In their suit, Shakur and the union argued, “There is no substantive or relevant reason to deviate from the law and court rulings that protect teachers from dismissal before the end of the school year – which apply to all Israeli teachers, Jews and Arabs alike – and to unilaterally determine a special arrangement applying solely to the Arab and Druze sectors, in which Arab teachers can be fired in the middle of the school year, and in effect, shortly after it begins.”

The suit quoted specific ministry regulations that apply only to Arab and Druze schools, such as the following: “In the case of an error, a change in the number of permitted staff positions, the fulfillment of an obligation toward a regular teacher who wasn’t placed in a job for some reason, or any erroneous decision for any reason whatsoever, we reserve the right to cancel or change any [job placement] decision that was made until October 1, 2013.”

Normally, ministry regulations don’t allow teachers to be fired midyear unless the teacher committed a serious offense. The suit accused the ministry of having drafted a special regulation to circumvent this rule – but only in Arab and Druze schools.

In its response to the court, the ministry insisted that it “treats all teachers equally,” and that the rule in question applies to Arab and Jewish teachers alike. “If it turns out that there was an error in the number of permitted staff positions, as happened in this case, the teacher’s job placement will be canceled,” its brief said. “This happens. ... Situations like this also occur in the Jewish sector. There is nothing discriminatory about this rule.”

The ministry also argued that the suit had been filed belatedly, but Shakour said this was because she first applied to the ministry for redress. Only after repeated requests to the ministry went unanswered did she go to court, Shakour said.

A third argument advanced by the ministry was that Shakour was never eligible to work in the school where she was wrongly placed, because her sister works there, and close relatives aren’t supposed to be employed in the same school. But Shakour cited previous cases in which that very same school had hired two relatives without the ministry objecting, and said there was no reason why this rule should be applied only to her and not to others.

In August, the Tel Aviv Labor Court ordered the ministry to rescind two other regulations on job placements in Arab schools on the grounds that they were discriminatory. The ministry appealed, and the National Labor Court is considering the case.

The ministry told Haaretz that there are in fact special regulations on job placement in Arab and Druze schools, “which were formulated to provide the optimal and most equal solution” to the problem of placing teachers in these schools, “in light of the gap that exists between the system’s needs and the large number of teachers in these sectors who seek to integrate into the system every year.”

Regarding Shakour’s suit, it said the ministry received it “only a few days ago, and will respond in court, as is standard practice.”

AFP