Schools Get New Rules for Dealing With Divorce

The Education Ministry has published new guidelines on how schools should deal with the impact of divorce on their students.

The guidelines, aimed at teachers and principals, seek to address various issues arising from divorce, such as maintaining identical communication with both parents. "Many schools have no idea how to deal with this phenomenon," said Tali Treger, head of the sexuality, relationships and family department at the ministry.

The right of both divorced parents to be equally informed of their child's progress was confirmed in a Supreme Court ruling in 2002. In recent years, however, many divorced parents have complained that they were not kept informed of their children' progress. Some did not even receive the report card given to all Israeli schoolchildren twice a year. Others complained that only one parent was invited to school activities like parties and field trips.

"Schools can find it more comfortable to maintain communication with just one parent, normally the one the child is living with," Treger said. "More often than not, that'll be the mother. But this is an improper policy, which comes from teachers not knowing how to handle the situation."

There have also been concerns that information on a child's school life was being used as another weapon in divorce battles.

Attorney Irit Rosenblum, chairwoman of the family rights organization New Family, said that 110,000 children aged 6 to 17 years have divorced parents. According to information obtained from the National Insurance Institute, the Tax Authority and the Interior Ministry, 70 percent of such children study in elementary or junior high schools.

The new guidelines instruct schools to invite both divorced parents to meet teachers, either together or separately, and to make arrangements with each on how they will be informed of their children's progress. The rules stress the need to maintain communication with both parents, even if they themselves, or the child, disagree.

The guidelines explain that even parents who do not retain custody of a child are still his or her legal guardians, unless a court or the divorce settlement states otherwise.

The guidelines instruct schools to "agree with each parent on how he wishes to receive information, such as invitations to parent-teacher days, class parties, school events and field trips; report cards; grades; or the child's removal from his educational establishment during school hours."

"Special communication arrangements must be put in place when the parents are not maintaining regular communication between themselves, when there is a high level of conflict between the two parents, or when one of the parents or the child are opposed to sharing such information," another guideline states.

Relly Sa'ar contributed to this report