(This is a similar, but different case than the more highly publicized Emanuel case. That one made it to court.) When Israeli parents in the religious system talk about school choice, they say they want education according to their religious standards. But in every conflict, you find that the main concern is not what the children will learn, but with whom they will learn. Parents firmly assert their right to reject students from the “wrong kind” of family.
At the beginning of the school year, a Beit Yaakov (haredi girl’s school) in Beit Shemesh refused to accept a group of neighborhood girls to first grade. (The girls all happened to be Sephardi. The school is mainly Ashkenazi.) Most of the girls found places in other schools, but one did not. Until Chanukah, the girl sat at home. Finally, at the instruction of the education ministry, she was put into the neighborhood school. The parents at the school responded by going on strike.
On Keren Neubach’s radio program on Channel II yesterday, a tape was aired with the principal’s remarks to the parents. The tape is from a couple of months ago. It seems to have been taped near the end of the parents’ strike.
This site, that reports on the Israeli welfare department, contains the full radio interview, along with segments of the tape. It’s in Hebrew, but the principal’s tone of voice can be understood in any language. The tape of the principal begins at 1:50 minutes; you can tell from the shift in audio quality. For some reason the blogger posted it as a video, and chose to accompany it with distasteful pictures. Still, I thank the blogger for putting it up.
Here is my translation of the principal’s remarks:
You, as a mother, are insisting on sending her to a place where she’s not wanted . . . No child wants to sit next to her, no one will be friends with her, no one will go to her house to play, no child will lend her a notebook, no one will approach her at recess, everyone will know that this is the girl, that because of her, we all sat at home for so long.
How can you, as a mother, send your daughter to a place where she is clearly not wanted? not only by me, not only by the teachers, and not only by the rabbi of the neighborhood—all 280 students don’t want her.”
Your daughter will be socially isolated. No girl will sit next to her. No one will invite her over. She’s going to go into a class that has 26 girls, she’ll be number 27. The other class has 32—in either case the class will have an odd number. Your daughter will sit by herself. And in two months when the teacher changes the seating arrangements, your daughter will sit by herself, again.
280 girls are sitting at home. For many of them it’s very hard, the parents are working. No one knows when this will end, I also don’t know. But all of them (kuuulam), did it happily (besimcha). Now if that girl calls on the phone to play, and the mother asks who is on the phone, will she let her daughter play with the girl, that because of her they all stayed home?
She’ll be a museum exhibit. All the girls will look to see who this girl is who caused the commotion. When every [apartment] building has 50 girls living there, what mother would send her daughter to play with a girl that has a “baayah chinuchit” (educational or discipline problem) at home?”
The man that Neubach interviewed, who brought the tape (I didn’t catch his name), claims to know the reason the girl was rejected but won’t reveal it to protect the family’s privacy. He and Neubach refer to a “social problem” at home but the principal clearly says what I quoted above, “educational problem.” “Baayah chinuchit” could mean anything at home that conflicts with the school’s message, ranging from a mother who wears skirts that are too tight to not being Sabbath observant. I don’t think it would refer to something more serious. The principal could have meant that the educational problem was the mother herself, who insisted on sending the daughter to a school where she wasn’t wanted, but I didn’t read it that way.
The principal has been called for a discipline hearing.
Followup post: Sending a Child to a School Where She’s Not Wanted
Photo credit: normis