Ministry Seeks to Expand Teachers' Discipline Options

The Education Ministry is working on a reform of its disciplinary code to increase teachers' powers at the expense of student rights, due to increasing violence in the schools, Haaretz has learned.

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar is expected to announce the new disciplinary policy in the near future.

A law on students' rights defines both students' obligations and their rights. Other regulations define the actions teachers and principals may take in response to student violence or misbehavior.

"If we need to change the law on students' rights, we will change the law," a senior source in the ministry said.

The proposed reform would allow educators to remove students from school premises for misbehaving, impose a ban on the use of cellular phones during school hours and ease the procedure for permanently removing a pupil from the classroom, among other measures.

With regard to removing misbehaving students from school premises, senior ministry officials are seeking to allow teachers to suspend a student until his case is reviewed by the head of the Education Ministry district in which the school is located.

A ministry official told Haaretz that as things stand today, schools often decide to suspend students for serious offenses, but must continue to teach them until their cases are reviewed.

"Such pupils need to be removed while their cases are pending," he said. "Their presence has a very bad influence on students and teachers alike."

But some educators charged that some of the proposed reforms go too far and would compromise student rights. One educator, for instance, criticized a proposal to involve principals in discussions of appeals by students against disciplinary measures.

"It's unseemly to have a principal who decided to remove a student participate in reviewing the student's appeal against the decision," he said.