(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Parents waited anxiously Wednesday for Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz to respond to an appeal that he reopen an investigation against a Jerusalem-area pre-school teacher who allegedly abused their children.
The parents issued their appeal in the form of a letter they delivered to Mazuz's office at the Justice Ministry on Tuesday following a decision by prosecutors not to indict the teacher.
Some staged a protest in front of the ministry, bringing battered dolls to emphasize that "children are not rag dolls and cannot be serially abused."
The case began in June 2007 when parents discovered what they described as serious cases of abuse against their children, who had been enrolled at a pre-school in Givat Ze'ev, just outside Jerusalem. After questioning the children as to the source of various scratches and bruises, the youngsters blamed their pre-school teacher.
A number of the parents filed complaints with the police, municipal government and Education Ministry. One said her daughter had been "thrown across the room and then locked in the bathroom."
With a police investigation under way, the Education Ministry transferred the teacher to a pre-school in Jerusalem's Kiryat Menahem neighborhood. The ministry explained that it was standard procedure to transfer an employee following a complaint so as not to interfere with the investigation.
Within a few months, parents at the Kiryat Menahem pre-school also discovered signs of child abuse. The parents of a three-year-old girl who found multiple contusions on her body were concerned enough to take her to the hospital. According to the National Council for the Child, the girl said it had been the pre-school teacher under investigation who caused the injuries.
The organization argued Tuesday that evidence pointed to the fact that the teacher was a serial child abuser and constituted a danger to small children.
One of the investigations was closed due to lack of evidence and another was closed when prosecutors remained unconvinced. The case was then turned over for disciplinary review by the Civil Service Commissioner's office.
After the parents submitted their letter on Tuesday, the attorney-general's office confirmed that it was reviewing the decision to close the investigations, as is mandated when such requests are received.
Sigal, one of the parents who filed a police complaint, was present at the Justice Ministry on Tuesday.
"You feel helpless," she said. "You feel that the authorities don't protect you or your children. You put your children in a pre-school and go to work, but you can't be certain about what is going on. It horrifies me that the teacher can be allowed to be with other children."
The National Council for the Child was established after a similar case of abuse in Jerusalem's Gilo neighborhood, the goal being to prevent the phenomenon in pre-schools and day-care centers.
According to current Education Ministry regulations, women need not undergo background checks or behavioral screening in order to work at any of the almost 40,000 registered pre-schools and day-care centers in Israel.