The Israel Police neglected to inform authorities at a Haifa high school that one of its teachers has been charged with committing an online sex offense with a minor. The authorities only learned about the arrest of David Berger, a special education teacher at the Leo Baeck High School in the city, after Haaretz called the school.
According to the indictment handed down Sunday, while Berger was chatting online with an undercover policewoman posing as a 13-year-old girl, he asked her to undress and masturbated in front of her.
When contacted by Haaretz, school administrators said they had not been informed about the charges, or asked by the police to check if any pupils who came in contact with Berger had been abused. The police said they had reported the arrest to the Education Ministry, but refused to say to whom the report was submitted.
Although Berger, 38, allegedly committed the offense in June, police only arrested him this month, along with 26 other suspects whom the undercover policewoman had implicated, such that the teacher continued to have contact with students in the interim. Berger, who lives in the Haifa area, has worked at the school for five years, and was teaching grades 10 to 12.
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The principal described him as “a very normative teacher, very well liked,” and noted that the school had no clue about the suspicions against him.
“The police didn’t update us. The first conversation was when you had contacted us,” she told Haaretz. “He was at school until [last] Monday. His mother called us on Tuesday and told us that he wouldn’t be coming in for a few days.”
During his absence the school tried to contact Berger, but to no avail, the principal said, adding, “One of the teachers went to visit him at home, but the house was locked and shuttered."
The police said the fact that Berger was a teacher became known to them only after his arrest, and the moment they found out they informed the Education Ministry.
For its part, the Education Ministry said the school was not told about Berger, “Because when it is being dealt with by police, the ministry is not authorized to provide information about a [possible] criminal record relating to any party or to say that a teacher is under investigation.”
However, after the story broke, the ministry updated its response, saying, “No one informed the Education Ministry of his arrest. The first we knew about the story was through the media.”