Demonstrators protest Knesset special-needs education bill

The law in question, Amendment 11 of the Special Education Law, would provide funding for children with disabilities in designated special-education schools, but not for public schools.

By NAOMI GRANT,
July 3, 2018 04:54
2 minute read.
Demonstrators protest Knesset special-needs education bill

PROTESTERS IN OPPOSITION of Amendment 11, Special Education Law, outside the Knesset yesterday.. (photo credit: DAPHNA KRAUSE)

Ita Wirzberger’s son had been in special education his whole life, until it wasn’t right for him anymore and he joined an inclusion program four years ago.

“His whole world has opened up,” Wirzberger said.

Her son has friends. He’s learned to read and write in both Hebrew and English, despite having a genetic syndrome that specifically makes languages more difficult. He met Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

He goes to the park on Shabbat to see his friends.

Under a bill that MKs will likely vote on this Wednesday, he could lose the support that has given him all of this.

Protesters outside the Knesset Monday, including Wirzberger, opposed a law scrapping accommodations for children with special needs at public schools.

The law in question, Amendment 11 of the Special Education Law, would provide funding for children with disabilities in designated special-education schools, but not for public schools in their districts.

The law would contradict previous Israeli law under the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, which requires schools to accommodate children with disabilities in the general education system.

“It’s a very, very sad day for democracy, it’s a very sad day for inclusion, it’s a sad day for all these amazing organizations that are working hard and we’ll keep on fighting,” said Gaby Shine Markowitz, a protester representing Beyachad, an NGO for disabilities inclusion. “Next stop, Supreme Court.”

Shine Markowitz is the mother of an eight-year-old daughter with Down syndrome who she said is “absolutely flourishing” at an integrated school with the help of special- needs services. She reads and writes at grade level.

Protester Erika Kaplan said that in the past, the country has been ranked as one of the top countries in the world for integrating special needs children in the classroom.

Zionist Union MK Yossi Yonah, who came outside to speak to the crowd for about 10 minutes, said, “At the end of the day, I believe that this reform would be detrimental to many of the children and it would not achieve its proclaimed goals.”

Kaplan said her son was able to become high-functioning autistic after being integrated with other children.

But now, Kaplan said it is very difficult for parents of children with disabilities to find good education.

“It puts more pressure on the parents,” she said. “We cannot cope under the pressure already – of the paperwork, of running after things and then getting told, ‘No, you can’t.’” Kaplan cited examples of her friend who is struggling to get her special-needs daughter into a school and a teacher refusing to have her son in the classroom because of a lack of resources.

“The teachers need to be given more resources,” she said. “Every school should be able to have all the facilities to... cater for any children or child with a disability.”


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