Education Minister Shay Piron denies having done anything wrong by meeting with a teenage boy accused of sexual assault while the case was pending before the Supreme Court.
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Piron met with the boy and his family a few weeks ago at the home of high-profile lawyer Eli Zohar, and Piron’s spokesman says the minister also tried to meet with the family whose son is alleging the crime.
The story began in June with two 15-year-old boys from a prestigious community in the center of the country. One boy told the police his friend had sexually assaulted him in the school yard during school hours.
According to one source, after the incident, the parents of the alleged victim complained to the police that their son had suffered acts of sodomy over a period of years. The boy, who reportedly has a mild mental disability, gave his account to a special police investigator. The other boy denied any wrongdoing, and prosecutors did not pursue the case due to a lack of evidence.
The alleged victim’s family appealed the closure of the case. Sources with knowledge of the file say the appeal included evidence on the alleged victim’s credibility.
The family of the accused also appealed, seeking to change the grounds on which the case was closed from lack of evidence to lack of guilt, which would clear their son of any suspicion. A decision is pending at the State Prosecutor’s Office.
Before the file was closed, education officials - including a social worker and a psychologist - ruled that the alleged assailant should be sent to a different high school. The boy appealed the decision to the Education Ministry, which denied the appeal.
His family then appealed to the Central District Court of Administrative Affairs, which confirmed that the boy should be transferred to a different high school. The family then appealed to the Supreme Court, contending that the decision violated their son’s presumption of innocence.
The families enlisted the services of some of Israel’s leading lawyers. Zohar has represented public figures such as former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The alleged victim’s family hired Ron Shapira, the chairman of the Peres Academic Center in Rehovot.
Several weeks ago, the Supreme Court confirmed the lower court’s decision to let the school transfer proceed, but the justices did not know that shortly before they ruled, Piron had held his meeting with the boy and his family at Zohar’s home.
“I came to tell you that you are not alone; to embrace you so you know I’m taking care of you,” Piron told the boy, according to an associate of the minister. “Any school that you’d like other than this school I’ll help you get into.”
Piron denies that after the meeting he tried to get the boy returned to the school where the alleged victim is assigned. Instead, the minister’s associates say Piron promised that at the end of the school year, officials would favorably consider assigning the boy to the alleged victim’s high school.
Sources say Piron complained to ministry officials that they had neglected the alleged assailant’s needs. He reportedly asked: “Why didn’t you visit him? Why didn’t you send him private teachers?” Sources in the education system called this an attempt by Piron to intervene in a decision unrelated to a policy matter that would concern a government minister.
Piron’s spokesman, Roi Fleischman, said: “As part of the minister’s policy to meet on a weekly basis with parents, teachers and principals, the education minister proposed meeting with the two families in an effort to find a solution to the matter. Only one family accepted the proposal.”
In private conversations, Piron reportedly said he deals with “dozens of requests a day” like this. “I got involved in this issue only after the case was closed for lack of evidence. I also approached the second family and asked to meet with them,” he reportedly said, adding that he had been in contact with the alleged victim a number of times.