Ten Years of Effort Have Failed to Reduce Violence in Israel's Schools

The Education Ministry has failed to deal with the problem of violence in the schools, the State Comptroller's Report said. Over the years, numerous professional committees have been appointed to study this problem, but most of their recommendations were never implemented.

"Over the past decade, the education system worked to reduce incidents of violence and improve the educational climate in schools. That goal was not achieved," the report stated.

Between 1996 and 2006, the frequency of violence - physical, social and sexual - at educational facilities remained virtually unchanged.

"During those years, about a third of students were victims of harassment or bullying on school property," the report said.

Several committees were established over that decade to review the problem, but their recommendations were ignored. Moreover, "the ministry does not have a body devoted exclusively to dealing with bullying and violence."

"The theoretical approach of the ministry's psychological counseling service is that the key to lowering the violence level depends on the nature of a school's atmosphere and climate," the report continued. "However, the ministry did not examine alternatives to that approach, despite the research data in its possession, which indicate no change in the bullying trend."

The ministry has no data on enforcement of regulations concerning school violence, and has not set up an efficient enforcement system. "The district inspectors, whose responsibility this is, are not doing their jobs properly in this regard."

Ministry regulations do not give teachers tools for enforcing discipline, making it hard for them to break up schoolyard fights and identify victims of violence and sexual assault. The comptroller found that teachers also refrain from defending pupils against bullying by classmates because they are afraid of lawsuits by pupils and parents.

Furthermore, teacher training programs do not prepare the future teachers to deal with school violence.

The Education Ministry said it is working to implement some of the report's recommendations. Reducing school violence is a mainstay of its activity, it added, and to this end, it runs a program at 800 schools designed to create "a safe climate."

On another education front, the comptroller found, the ministry is not keeping a proper eye on ultra-Orthodox schools designated "recognized but unofficial." The ministry has funding for only a few inspectors for these schools, and even some of these positions remain unfilled.