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The security of some 700 small schools throughout Israel may have been significantly impaired when the government voted on Sunday to reassign the 112 police squads that deal with school security to general policing duties, the Education Ministry said on Sunday.
Education Minister Yuli Tamir cast the only vote against the decision in Sunday's cabinet meeting. "This decision endangers Israel's children, significantly reducing the police's response capability to incidents in schools," Tamir said.
Schools with over 100 students are allocated a security budget by law that is usually enough for a security guard and metal detectors at the school's entrances.
Some 700 schools and kindergartens, however, are not large enough to qualify for the security funds. Most of these schools operate in the periphery, in the tiny poor towns of the Negev or the agricultural communities of the North.
Until the coming school year, a special unit of the Israel Police comprised of hundreds of officers was devoted to patrolling and securing the unfunded schools.
While private aid, particularly from the United Jewish Communities, helped to fund security guards in the smaller schools, this funding will not continue in the new school year. Thus, though the effect of the police squads' reassignment won't be significant for the larger schools, smaller schools throughout Israel will be left literally defenseless.
Education Ministry Dir.-Gen. Shmuel Abuav addressed the issue with Internal Security Ministry Dir.-Gen. Ra'anan Pollack before Sunday's cabinet meeting. "I believe that in today's security situation, it would be a mistake to change the assignment of the police units, since they help in securing the students and calm the parents," Abuav said.
A comment from the Internal Security Ministry could not be obtained by press time.