(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Shas chairman and Interior Minister Arye Deri announced new directives on Monday in an attempt to end discrimination by haredi (ultra-Orthodox) highschools against Sephardi girls in their acceptance policies.
Deri was accompanied at a press conference announcing the changes by Education Minister Naftali Bennett, whose ministry drafted the directives.
Activists have for many years sought to end discrimination faced by Sephardi haredi girls, who have often been subjected to quotas by predominantly Ashkenazi haredi schools. The issue has been complicated by discrimination against Ashkenazi girls based on perceived shortfalls in the religious observance of their families.
According to the directives, the registration process must now begin and end only on predesignated dates, to ensure sufficient time to appeal a pupil’s rejection or find alternate arrangements.
Registration fees, which have been a problem in the past, have been banned, and local municipal authorities are now responsible for ensuring that all pupils in the municipality are registered and placed in educational institutions under their jurisdiction.
Schools must also conduct the acceptance and registration process “with full equality and transparency.”
Critically, if the Education Ministry discovers that a school used “extraneous considerations” which contravene the directives, the ministry will be entitled to block funds to that school and even revoke its educational license.
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In addition, all schools must now draw up their own transparent directives for pupil acceptance and registration, which must then be given to the Education Ministry for review.
If a school rejects a pupil, that student and their parents may submit an appeal to the school, while the local municipal authority’s department of education can formally request that the school accept the pupil.
If these steps fail, an appeal can be made to the Haredi Education Division of the Education Ministry, which can insist that the pupil be placed in the school. If such a decision is made, the school will be obligated to accept that pupil.
“This is the most important issue for us and this is a day of celebration,” said Deri at the conference.
“Many hours and months have been spent working on these new directives... and we finally have a solution. The big news we have is that a girl who begins her summer holiday will know where she is studying the next year,” he said.
Attorney Yoav Laloum, head of the Noar K’halacha activist group that has campaigned intensively on this issue, dismissed the new directives as “more spin from Deri and Bennett,” arguing that since the new directives were not issued as formal regulations they will be hard to enforce.
“Deri and Bennett are trying to hide their helplessness in dealing with discrimination,” said Laloum. “In practice, there are no regulations here, it’s basically recycled guidelines.”
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