The Education Ministry will now be checking all teachers to make sure they have not come under criminal investigation since they began teaching, a ministry official announced yesterday at a meeting of the Knesset Education Committee.
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“Until now we conducted checks every five years. But ahead of the new school year, we’ll conduct another check,” said Sonia Peretz, head of the ministry’s human resources in teaching.
The announcement follows the discovery a few weeks ago that a substitute teacher in a Tel Aviv elementary school, who had been convicted recently of sexual offenses, had allegedly molested second-grade girls he was teaching.
Peretz said the ministry had directed school principals to ban entry of teachers to schools if they had not been vetted to work with children.
A police representative told the committee that information about the substitute’s conviction had been given to the Education Ministry, which had done nothing about it.
Education Committee chairman MK Yaakov Margi asked the representatives of the Education Ministry whether the current laws gave them the tools they needed to keep criminal suspects out of classes. The head of the ministry’s security branch, Aryeh Mor, said they did not.
“When we ask for information, we receive it from the police. We intend to create a system that will alert us when an investigation is underway against an employee of the education system.”
Justice Ministry attorney Gabi Fisman told the committee: “We called a meeting to study what we could do. The solution will be technological, that will alert us the moment an investigation is launched or an indictment is issued. The moment the regulator sees that warning, the problem will be solved.”
The police representative, Chief Superintendent Iris Barak, head of the criminal information department of the Public Security Ministry, said: “The criminal registry is confidential and according to law is given only to authorized entities, one of which is the Education Ministry, which receives information until the date the record is expunged. The information was set before the Education Ministry and yet the decision was made as it was made. The information was requested by the Education Ministry and was received. What was done with it afterward is not our responsibility.”
Margi said it was a serious failure that the Education Ministry had information about a teacher who had molested students yet “did not draw the required conclusions.” He asked the ministry to submit within 10 days “a new procedure including a reasonable timetable for the technology proposed by the Justice Ministry, in cooperation with the Israel Police.”
Margi said the committee demanded that the ministry not employ a teacher under investigation, even if he had not yet been convicted. Margi also asked the police to increase supervision at summer camps and swimming pools, as required by law.
The Education Committee convened to discuss the matter on the initiative of MKs Yifat Shasha-Biton (Kulanu), Miki Rosenthal (Zionist Union) and Aida Touma-Suliman (Joint List).