A new trend in Israeli parenting involves equipping small children with spy cameras to catch a ganenet (kindergarten teacher) during the act of child abuse. In Makor Rishon’s “Tzedek” supplement (January 16), Itzik Wolf wrote that the education ministry is preparing a legal document that will declare this practice illegal wiretapping.
Tzedek interviewed Lily Pokmonsky, head of the kindergarten teachers’ division in the Histradut teachers’ union, who confirmed that the ministry’s legal counsel hopes to make these secret recordings into criminal offenses. Pokmonsky asks, “What have we come to? Does a parent need to use a child to commit a crime and sew a pocket in his shirt with a recording device?” When asked what parents should do if they suspect their child is being abused, Pokmonsky said, “Don’t send him to gan”.
Pokmonsky receives many reports from teachers who find recording devices in the children’s backpacks, or pinned to the clothes. The ganenet might first learn of the device when she sees herself on the evening news. “Parents today don’t set boundaries for their children, so a ganenet finds herself raising her voice. It goes to the press and gets edited.” Sometimes the teacher needs to hold back a child who is in danger of hurting another.
According to Pokmonsky, only a small number of teachers ever abused children and they shouldn’t be made into criminals. In one case, Pokmonsky did not assist a ganenet because what appeared in the video was clearly abuse.
The following is a translation of part of the article.
Wolf: If they can’t film, how would you have known that she wasn’t okay?
Pokmonsky: “Come on, you can’t generalize. That’s why I say that if a parent suspects something wrong she should first speak to the ganenet, then to the supervised and the director of the education ministry. There is a lot to do before going to the press in such a sneaky way.”
Wolf: So your problem is not the filming, but going to the press?
Pokmonsky: I didn’t say that. If a parent doesn’t rely on the teacher he needs to check why. There are supervisors. Parents don’t do their jobs either. If a 3-year-old comes to gan and is violent . . . someone has to set boundaries and be aware of what is happening.”
Wolf: Now you are generalizing.
Pokmonsky: I didn’t say all the parents. I said that parents don’t take on the job of parents. Once there was respect for the system and teachers. The teacher’s word was word (mila shel ganenet o shel mora hayta mila). Today , the parents themselves don’t respect the system. That’s the problem.
Dr. Yitzchak Kadman, chair of the association for the welfare of the child, spoke out in outrage against Pokmonsky’s claims.
“My blood boils when they say it is slandering a ganenet,” says Kadman. “It’s typical of the teacher’s union. They should be concerned about having excellent teachers, not hiding the ones who are no good. It’s an uneducational approach. The big problem is that when these things happen in gan or daycare, unless there is a camera, in most cases the case is closed. A child, because of his age, can’t testify. If he says something it’s not enough and further evidence is needed.”
Kadman continues, “Unfortunately in recent years there have been extremely shocking cases of real violence and abuse. Without use of this tool it would not have been possible to prove the violence and impossible to fire the abusive teacher. It could have continued without interruption.”
“The big sorrow is that the law-enforcing bodies do not act,” said Kadman. “In most cases when the education ministry deals with them it ends with nothing. Often a complaint is filed with the police because of unexplained bruises on the cheek or elsewhere, and it ends with nothing. As with other examples where the authorities do not do their job—there is no vacuum. Filling the vacuum involves solutions that I really don’t like, including turning a child into a recording device.”
But Kadman emphasizes that the failure of the education system to conduct self-examination doesn’t leave parents with much choice. Instead of blaming parents, hesays that the education ministry and the teacher’s union need to ask themselves why parents would feel the need for hidden cameras. The most that is done today when there is a complaint, is to move the teacher to another gan. He says that if the ministry, and the police if necessary, won’t do the job, the parents will step in with private initiatives.
But is it legal? Dr. Hadar Danzig-Rozenberg, an expert in clinical law from Bar-Ilan University, says that there is no clarity about whether it is illegal for children to record in the gan. “The legal definition of wiretapping involves putting a recording device in a place where two other people are, without their knowledge. Once one of them knows, it’s not secret. There is a kind of interpretive dispute: How do we understand the fact that the child is present and the parent isn’t? If you put a camera in a backpack of the child and the child is one side [of the conversation], it’s not secret wiretapping. But if you say that the child has no representation and the parents put in the camera without being present, then you could say that the parent engaged in [illegal] wiretapping.
“It seems to me, from a normative stance, that the child is an agent,” maintains Danzig-Rozenberg. In her opinion, even though it is a young child who often cannot be seen as a legal entity, the recording occurs surrounding things that are relevant to him. “The parent can maintain that he represents the child and steps into his shoes. In this case, it could be that the presence of the child is enough to prevent the definition of the act as wiretapping.”
Danzig-Rozenberg also maintains that the current protocol needs to change, to allow parent representatives to be present at hearings held by the education ministry in response to complaints about teachers.
In an article she published about the status of victims of criminal proceedings, Danzig-Rozenberg explained that victims of abuse should be partners in the process. The state has an obligation to protect them from secondary harm by authorities during the course of the judicial process against the accused. She claims that this is a legal right, and includes the need not to treat a victim as simply a tool by which the state can get a conviction.
She argues that it is a basic right for the child and his or her parents to be heard, and get information about the process.
I found Pokmonsky’s comments disturbing, especially the part about the violent children being a result of lack of boundaries by parents. I guess only poorly parented children ever hit or bite, and certainly no child of a ganenet ever has. I also don’t buy the line that parents don’t have respect for teachers, while teachers have remained as responsible and professional as they always were. If societal attitudes about teachers have changed, teachers’ attitudes cannot remain unaffected.
Would you consider equipping your child with a spy camera? May we all be blessed with caring and loving teachers for our children!
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