Security crisis at schools due to 'philanthropy gone wrong'

"Philanthropy done wrong" is the source of the current crisis over school security, according to Knesset Education Committee chairman Michael Melchior (Labor). "Whenever philanthropy replaces the government, it destroys more than it helps," he told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. Meanwhile, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter and top police officials met in Tel Aviv early Thursday afternoon with local council heads and security officers who blasted the law enforcement establishment for "providing insufficient protection for students." The annual meeting on security arrangements in advance of the new school year erupted into angry outbursts at times as the regional representatives accused the ministry of "abandoning the lives of students in small schools" and discriminating against those in Arab schools. Local parents' organizations have threatened not to send their children to any school that does not have proper security. The 2006-2007 school year marks the end of a UJC donation that has funded security for some 700 small schools throughout the country whose security isn't funded by law due to their size. In addition, the cabinet decided last Sunday to reassign the 114 police squads that deal with school security to general policing duties. The combined effect is to some one-fifth of the country's schools - mostly in the Negev and Galilee - that are left literally defenseless at the start of the school year on Sunday. While, the Internal Security and Education ministries have each accused the other of failing to meet its responsibilities, Melchior believes that, in this issue, "there is no Education or Internal Security. It's all the same money." "The problem," he said, "began when the government accepted the generous UJC donation during the intifada. Then happened what happens every time - the state enjoys the savings given to it by kind-hearted Jews around the world that want to contribute, but when it comes back to the state, suddenly there isn't a budget for it. The bureaucracy doesn't know how to solve the problem, so it often does the irresponsible thing, such as changing the security assessment to pretend the added security isn't necessary." Thus, the real culprit is "the lack of a government decision putting education in the center," Melchior said. In response to the crisis, he urged that donors "not take on things that are the responsibility of the government. It just puts us in a trap later on." At the beginning of his meeting with the local authority heads, Dichter briefly explained the considerations in ending the system of dedicating specific police patrol cars for school protection, promising that their reassignment "will withstand an operational test" and prove successful. During his comments, he chose to highlight other recent changes in police deployment designed to increase the public's sense of personal security. Dichter cited the recent reassignment of three Border Police companies to urban areas seen in need of a more visible police presence. But the council heads were anything but appeased by his explanations and almost half walked out of the meeting when Dichter left the forum after fielding only two questions and refusing to comment on specific security issues within Arab schools. Further briefings by senior police officers were also interrupted by questions about security arrangements for schools, and many of the local leaders voiced dissatisfaction with the final arrangements for the upcoming school year. Also Thursday, Central District chief Cmdr. Dudi Cohen emphasized that despite recent reports, police patrol cars would continue to guard educational facilities and that the integration of designated patrol cars for schools and public transportation into the general fleet would only occur following a systematic reorganization. Cohen said the goals of that reorganization would be to enable a higher level of police availability to the general public as to schools.