TA City Hall Pens 'Children's and Teens' Covenant' - Without Asking Their Opinions

A "children's and teens' covenant" initiated by the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality is to be launched next week to coincide with Universal Children's Day on November 20.

The covenant, written by Prof. Asa Kasher of Tel Aviv University's philosophy department, and which other municipalities have joined, states that its goal is the "mutual obligations of children and teens and the municipality."

However, schoolchildren, parents and teachers were not involved in its formulation. "There is no value to the covenant, which includes demands for various behaviors of students, without their cooperation. The right of children to be heard is basic, and cannot be done without," said a senior figure in the education system of one of the cities involved in the initiative. The official said that a covenant that did not involve children in its formulation "is not the way to promote children's rights, but rather to disparage them."

The Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality approached Kasher, who wrote the Israel Defense Forces ethical code, to write the covenant. After it was published, Tel Aviv invited other cities including Be'er Sheva, Ashdod and Rishon Letzion to join it. According to Kasher, additional cities are also expected to join.

Tens of thousands of schoolchildren will receive personal copies of the covenant after it is launched next week.

The covenant consists of eight clauses. Four delineate the obligations of the city, and four the obligations of children and teens. The clauses include a pledge by adults to "respect each girl and boy as human beings," and to "protect the natural environment of children's lives in the city."

The children and teens pledge to "respect all human beings as human beings" and to "always behave in a way that does not endanger their own life and health and that of others," and to "protect the environment of life in the city."

Kasher composed different versions of the covenant for different cities, with a few sentences relating to the specific city in each case.

"In all areas of ethics, every person must know when to do his part," Kasher said. "The moment children entered the picture was when they discussed the covenant in school [in Tel Aviv]. We have so far received no problematic feedback."

Kasher said he was open to changes, but no demands had been made for changes.

However the chairwoman of the National Parents Leadership, the umbrella organization for parents committees of schools, Eti Binyamin, said: "The covenant promotes principles that apparently no one would reject. However, these principles were not presented to parents for discussion, clarification or to persuade them, and the practical means of implementing the covenant were not discussed at all. Without cooperation from everyone, the covenant is nothing more than another document that talks about rights, but does not apply them."

A Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipal spokesperson said that the covenant had undergone slight changes in response to comments by children and teens, and would be launched in its updated form and expanded to a wider audience.