'The supervisor is religious, the principal is religious'

Secular parents in Shlomi claim they are being forced to send their children to a religious school.

back to school 248.88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
back to school 248.88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
At least 11 secular children from the northern border town of Shlomi will have to study in Ort Shlomi, a junior high school which they claim belongs to the religious nationalist stream, according to a ruling handed down on Wednesday by Haifa District Court. The Education Ministry maintains that the school, which is still under construction and for now is holding classes in a community center, includes two streams, one state secular and the other state religious. The parents asked to be allowed to send their children to a state secular school near Kibbutz Kabri, outside the Shlomi school district. Haifa District Court Judge Igal Grill accepted the decision of Orna Simchon, head of the Northern School District, who rejected the families' appeal. Simchon wrote that according to the regulations, the only criteria for allowing children to transfer from one school district to another is if the child is unsuited for the other children in the school, the child or his parents have problems with the school principal or the teachers, or the child has adjustment problems. The parents argued that these criteria apply only when a child wants to transfer from one school to another in the same educational stream. The parents insisted that despite what the Education Ministry said, the school was effectively Orthodox. "The supervisor is religious, the principle is religious and the school is subsidized by a religious organization in England," said Ilan Yaakobi, whose daughter, Lihi, is among the students who want to transfer. "If the situation were the opposite and the school was state secular, I doubt if the Education Ministry would force religious students to learn there." In their petition, the parents charged that most of the teachers were Orthodox and that the rules of discipline and behavior were of a "clearly religious character," including dress code, separation of boys and girls in various activities such as swimming lessons, curriculum and hours of study. Yaakobi told The Jerusalem Post that the school would impose five weekly hours of Bible studies on the secular children and only three hours of mathematics. The Education Ministry denied these allegations. Officials argued that there were more secular teachers than religious teachers, the school regulations were not religious in substance and that the secular children would study according to the hours and curriculum of the state secular stream. They also argued that if the children were allowed to study outside the school district, many others might leave and this would cause "critical harm" to the school budget and therefore affect those children who wanted to study in Shlomi.