Court to Hear State Response to Firing of Shuvu Principal

The state is scheduled to deliver its response today to a High Court of Justice petition submitted by the principal of an elementary school who was fired for refusing to to admit students of Ethiopian descent.

After the closure last year of Ner Etzion, a state-religious school in Petah Tikva whose student body came almost exclusively from the area's Ethiopian community, the Shuvu Schools Network's elementary school in the city was instructed to admit students from the school. According to the Shuvu website, the network, which now has 69 schools and affiliated institutions around Israel, was established "to facilitate a sustainable future for many thousands of Russian immigrant and native Israeli children in Israel."

The principal of the Shuvu school, Batsheva Kepler, refused the directives. After a hearing in May she was dismissed, effective from July 1. Her dismissal marks the first time a principal has been fired for refusing to admit children of Ethiopian origin.

Haaretz has obtained a copy of Kepler's dismissal letter, stipulating that she is barred from serving as principal at the Shuvu school in Petah Tikva or any other school, or working in an administrative position at any school, during the current school year.

The letter, issued by the Director General of the Education Ministry, Dalit Shtauber, specified that Kepler's dismissal was based on her refusal to admit children from Ner Etzion. "Your stated refusal to admit to your school's first-grade class a group of children from the Ethiopian community contradicts every social-educational pedagogical principle that the education system is committed to, and constitutes discrimination," Shtauber wrote, adding that Kepler refused the orders of Yehuda Pinsky, director of non-official recognized education in the ministry, to admit the children.

"As a state employee you are obligated to act in accordance with the laws of the State of Israel and with the policies and directives of the Education Ministry. In your actions and statements you acted in violation of what is expected and demanded," Shtauber wrote in his response to her.

Kepler first appealed the decision to Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, who turned her down.