Parents to strike over school patrols

"Every mall has to have security, but our children don't."

school kids 298 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
school kids 298 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Schools that lack a security guard or a police patrol may not open when the new school year starts on Sunday, the Forum of Chairmen of Local Parents Organizations said. "It's simple: A school that doesn't have security won't have students," Bat Yam Parents Organization head Itzik Keren said Tuesday. "This won't be solved until someone [in the government] responsible for the issue does something about it." The parents' anger followed Sunday's cabinet decision to reassign the 114 police squads that provide school security to general duties. The decision left smaller schools throughout the country without security arrangements. While schools with more than 100 students receive a budget that is usually enough for a security guard and metal detectors, there are approximately 700 schools and kindergartens that are too small to qualify for the funding. Until now, the police unit that was ordered dismantled on Sunday protected the smaller schools, most of which are in poorer towns in the Negev or in agricultural communities in the North. According to a senior Internal Security Ministry official, the transfer of the patrol units was necessary. "In the past, there was an unfortunate attempt to structure the police force according to sectors, such as allotments to specific assignments, to educational institutions and public transportation," he said. "Instead of just the 114 police cars, the entire police force is now available to all educational institutions should the need arise," he said. "The old assignments were misleading, because the police cars stationed at the schools were 'unmovable.' If there was an emergency, the cars were still required to remain stationed at the school." The parents said, however, that the combination of no police at schools and no funding for security guards endangered the children. "We're not going to open the schools, because [the cabinet decision] creates a severe threat to our children's safety," said Jerusalem Parents Organization chairwoman Eti Binyamin, who also heads the national chairmen's forum. She blamed Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter for the problem. "When Dichter raised the proposal [to disband the special police patrols] in the cabinet meeting, he was supposed to submit a proposal to increase the school security budget. He didn't do this," she said. "Every mall has to have security, but our children don't." Binyamin also wants a raise for school guards. "The quality of the security has to rise," she said. "Right now, a security guard makes NIS 20.75 an hour, after you add transportation. What former combat soldier would work for that kind of money?" Education Minister Yuli Tamir, who cast the only vote against the decision in Sunday's cabinet meeting, said at the time that the decision "endangered Israel's children, significantly reducing the police's response capability to incidents in schools." An Education Ministry representative told The Jerusalem Post that the ministry agreed with the parents and would not require any educational institution to open without security. The lack of funding for small schools, whose protection is the sole responsibility of the Internal Security Ministry, was an issue the Education Ministry was unable to fix, the representative said. "We can't fight the Finance Ministry over someone else's budget," she said. The Internal Security Ministry said the school guard budget was controlled by the Education Ministry. The Internal Security Ministry's responsibility was only to determine the training required by a guard, provide that training and ensure he got it. The ministry did not determine the number of guards protecting schools or the budget for them, a ministry representative told the Post. "That's just the problem," said Keren. "No one is responsible for this issue, not the Education Ministry, not Internal Security and not Finance. We believe the Prime Minister's Office needs to take this up. It's inconceivable that no one knows who is responsible for school security."