School violence

There is no excuse for the Hod Hasharon father’s violent assault at Shahar middle school. However, the incident provides an opportunity to reassess our educational system.

Petah Tikva school 370 (photo credit: Courtesy )
Petah Tikva school 370
(photo credit: Courtesy )
A man who attacked his eighth-grade son’s teacher at Hod Hasharon’s Shahar middle school Friday morning claimed afterward that he suffered a temporary loss of control.
“It was a moment of weakness,” he argued, apologetically.
Perhaps the father does indeed have a history of violence in his family. Perhaps he was brought up in a culture that encourages solving disputes with force. He might even suffer from excessive testosterone levels.
Perhaps, too, the incident at Shahar middle school is symptomatic of an unappreciated and underpaid educational profession that has failed to attract the best and brightest. In a society that values big salaries, the teaching profession’s demotion is even more pronounced and breeds a generation of children and parents with little respect for the educator.
But nothing can excuse this despicable act.
The legal system’s role is to mete out justice, while schools are built to educate; but the courts have a unique opportunity to make a distinctively educational message by ensuring that this pugnacious father is punished severely and used as an example.
Doing so might deter the next hotheaded parent who dares to trample teacher authority. At the very least, a stiff sentence clarifies to all – teachers, students and parents – that a red line was crossed.
The circumstances of the beating are appalling.
According to news reports, the father became incensed when he heard – apparently via cellphone – that a teacher at Shahar middle school had dared to confiscate his son’s cellphone. It did not matter to the father that his son had violated school rules by using the cellphone during a test. Nor was the father consoled by the fact that the cellphone would be returned to his son later.
The irate man decided instead to take the matter into his own hands. He rushed to the school, entered the room where the teacher was conducting a lesson and in front of a class of students attacked the educator. He dragged him out of the classroom and began hitting him in the corridor.
The man was arrested and a judge issued an order to extend the arrest for two additional days. The teacher, shocked and humiliated, stayed home Sunday.
It is difficult to imagine how he will be able to face his students again.
The first order of business is to ensure that the father is severely punished. He should serve a prison sentence, even if it is short. At the time of sentencing, when the judge hands down the verdict and the punishment, the violent father should be made to feel a comparable level of shock and humiliation to that experienced by the teacher he attacked.
In addition, school guards should exercise more control over access to school premises. Parents should not be allowed to enter during the school day unless they receive permission.
A concerted effort must be launched to eradicate the use of cellphones, ipads, ipods, iphones, tablets etc. during school hours. Education Ministry directives already prohibit the use of such distractions during classes or tests.
Now these directives must be more closely enforced. Depositing these devices in the morning upon arrival at school and retrieving them at the end of the day is the best solution.
Finally, steps need to be taken to make the teaching profession more attractive. If educators garner more respect, potentially dangerous parents will think twice before daring to attack.
There is no excuse for the Hod Hasharon father’s violent assault at Shahar middle school. However, the incident provides an opportunity to reassess our educational system.
The rampant use of cellphones and other distracting devices on school premises is a reflection of the breakdown in teachers’ authority, with the beating representing a particularly extreme example of a troubling phenomenon.