The Kid Stays in the Classroom

The Tel Aviv District Court recently rejected a petition requesting that a student who had acted violently be removed from his school. The petition had been submitted by parents from a well-established community in the Sharon area.

"The right to enjoy an education is given equally to every child and youth," Judge Oded Mudrik wrote in the ruling. Regarding a request from some parents that the boy be sent to a school for special education, Mudrik added that such a move would "interfere with the realization of his right to an education."

Sources in the Education Ministry said the ruling could be seen as "restricting parental interference in pedagogical decisions and the management of schools." On the other hand, one parent noted that the petition had pushed the ministry into drawing up a new plan for the supervision of the pupil.

In the petition, submitted to the court last September, 17 couples - the parents of some of the 28 pupils in a fourth-grade class in the Sharon area - asked that the boy be removed from the school following a series of violent outbursts. They complained that he often swore violently, and sometimes to hit others, threw objects with the intention of hurting someone, and attacked pupils and teachers with sharp objects. The parents said the pupil had begun acting this way in first grade. The violent behavior worsened, they claimed, and culminated in him cutting one classmate's face with a sharp object and trying to strangle another. The parents requested that "the pupil be removed from the class until a solution is found for him, so that our children can be protected," said Avner, one of the parents who filed the petition.

In his ruling, Mudrik wrote that during the hearings some parents communicated "an extreme approach - that found expression in the demand that the pupil be removed from the school." However, he added, "most of the parents expressed a more moderate approach."

The case, the judge wrote, constitutes "a phenomenon in which there is a 'clash' between [the other] pupils' right to an education and the boy's right to an education. It is clear as daylight that an extreme decision - which would prefer the pupils' rights over the right of the boy - would be possible only if there were no reasonable way to realize his right and their rights mutually. This is why the petitioners' request to transfer the pupil from the school is rejected."

Parental demands

"The significance of the ruling is that the Education Ministry must defend the pupils in a reasonable manner, but also that the parents do not have the right to decide who will study at their children's school," said Dr. Dan Gibton of the School of Education and the Law faculty at Tel Aviv University. "The danger was that any group of parents will organize themselves and demand that someone they do not like be removed [from the class]."

"In terms of the tension between the right of the individual and the right of the group, I am pleased that this time the court chose to defend the pupil who requires nurturing and assistance from the system," said Avi Kaminsky, union chairman for the directors of the education departments in the local government.

Throughout the hearings, the parents sent the school and the ministry a list of demands that included "an assistant who is quick and strong enough to face the challenges (including the physical ones) as required, in order to gain control of the pupil during outbursts." The parents also demanded the assistant be present the entire time the boy attends school and that any alteration to this arrangement "would be contingent on the agreement of representatives of the parents of the children in the class."

The ministry's representatives and the school principal, for their part, claimed that "the school has the tools and the ability to deal with exceptional cases of this kind" and that a team of experts had already formulated a plan specifically for the boy. The ministry also expressed its firm opposition to "the imposition of authority" on the part of parents over the school.

In his ruling, Mudrik writes that in view of the special plan formulated for the pupil, "there is no basis for the court to intervene in order to force the authorities to carry out another arrangement."

"For years we have asked the school and the Education Ministry to protect our children," said Avner. "The solution every time has been to add two grams of Acamol, but there has been no significant change. At the beginning of the [school] year we found that the number of hours that there was an assistant present decreased from 39 to 16. Only during the hearings did they suddenly find another 20 hours."

"In the final analysis," he added, "the petition achieved what we had hoped for."

The Education Ministry concluded that "there is no reason to remove the pupil from the regular educational framework."