MK Amram Mitzna (Hatnua) said on Monday that it is imperative that there be an unequivocal message stating that teachers should be able to discus topical, current events without fear.
The Education, Culture and Sports committee chairman issued these remarks following reports that a high school teacher, from the northern town of Kiryat Tivon, was on the verge of being fired after a student complained to Education Minister Shai Piron of his “extreme left-wing views.”
Mitzna said that “the practice of having ‘political literacy,’ while maintaining the freedom of expression, is essential to the existence of a moral and democratic education.
However, teachers should serve as a personal example for students and they need to demonstrate sensitivity with respect to expressions of voluntary personal opinions.”
On Wednesday the Education, Culture and Sports committee will hold a special discussion in the Knesset on “Political discourse in the school system.”
The Kiryat Tivon teacher, Adam Verta, has been summoned for a disciplinary hearing, after which a decision will be rendered as to his future employment at the ORT Greenburg High School in Kiryat Tivon.
The student who made the initial complaint, Sapir Sabah, appeared on Channel 2 Monday morning, explaining that she was motivated to appeal to the Education Ministry after her 12th grade teacher, Verta, revealed himself to be a “leftist who was inciting against the IDF and encouraging students not to perform military service.”
“Adam expressed his opinions about the army,” Sabah told Channel 2. “He said the army was amoral and that it used violence against innocent civilians. This made me furious.”
“I’m one year before my enlistment in the army,” she said. “I see this as incitement and encouragement against joining an organization that is ‘amoral.’” In Sabah’s letter to Piron, she said the teacher “described himself as an extreme leftist, said that our country doesn’t at all belong to the Jews but rather to the Palestinians, and that we, the Jews, shouldn’t even be here.”
Sabah said that Verta acknowledged to his students that he voted for the non-Zionist Hadash Party, and that he would ridicule her whenever she expressed an opposing opinion.
She said that the decision to write the letter to Piron came as a result of an Education Ministry bylaw banning teachers from expressing political opinions in class.
Sabah’s classmates wrote a letter to Channel 2 in which they noted that “the atmosphere in Verta’s civics classes was always one that allowed an open discussion and a free exchange of views.”