Elementary School Teacher in Northern Israel Stayed on a Year Despite Sex Assault Claims

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File photo: An empty classroom in Israel.Credit: AP

An elementary school teacher in Tiberias continued to teach for over a year even after police began investigating him on suspicion of sexually assaulting girls ages 6 to 12 in his former hometown.

Only on Tuesday, following a report on Army Radio, did Tiberias Mayor Yossi Ben-David put the teacher on immediate forced leave until the matter is clarified.

According to Army Radio, the teacher has taught in the same Tiberias school since 2011. The school is under the control of the Education Ministry.

About a year ago, following complaints by parents in his then-hometown in the Jordan Valley, police arrested and questioned him. He denied the allegations, but police nevertheless recommended indicting him.

Yet only this Monday did they inform the Civil Service Commission that the teacher was under investigation, the commission said. Thus it’s likely that the commission was informed only because of Army Radio’s reporting.

Moreover, just last week, Beit She’an police approved the teacher for work in the school system despite the investigation against him. The teacher requested a certificate of police clearance for employment at his own initiative; the Education Ministry hadn’t asked him for it, as it saw no need to do so since he has taught at the same school since 2011.

The form letter the police sent the Civil Service Commission was labeled an update on an ongoing investigation rather than an initial report. But the commission told Haaretz that this was the first it had heard of any investigation against the teacher

By law, police are required to inform the commission as soon as an investigation is opened into any public-sector worker. The report must summarize the possible charges against the employee and the circumstances of the case. The commission is then supposed to decide what action, if any, to take against the employee, including the option of suspending him.

Meanwhile, the teacher himself has moved to Tiberias, because a group of parents in his former hometown sent him a letter asking him to leave the community.

But he still hasn’t been indicted because a few weeks ago, prosecutors returned the investigation file to the police and asked them to fill in a few holes in the evidence. Police only recently sent the file back to the prosecution for a final decision on whether to indict.

Police have not responded to Haaretz’s questions on the issue. The Education Ministry said it is looking into the matter and has summoned the teacher for an urgent hearing, after which it will decide what action to take.

The Tiberias municipality said in a statement that as soon as the mayor learned of the suspicions against the teacher, it ordered the school to put him on forced leave until the matter was checked out, “especially since he didn’t tell us the true reasons why he left his hometown, instead claiming that he wanted to be closer to the school where he taught.”

The case follows on the heels of the arrest of a teacher in Tel Aviv on suspicion of sexually assaulting his students. A court ordered Shaul Shamai held without bail for another week on Tuesday.

So far, 10 students of various ages have filed complaints against Shamai. He was arrested after second-graders in a class where he worked as a substitute told their parents he had kissed them, but one of the complainants is a 14-year-old girl.

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