A few weeks ago, the Education Ministry advertised in the haredi media a call for parents whose children had experienced discrimination in gaining acceptance to an educational institution. They were invited to file a complaint with the Education Ministry’s Appeal Committee.
Since then, dozens of complaints are being received daily, by parents reporting discrimination based on ethnicity, according to a source in the Education Ministry.
"The committee receives dozens of calls every day," a ministry official said. "Just yesterday we received 10 complaints. In practice, all the complaints of discrimination are about girls, where most are centered on ethnicity that occurred in girls’ seminaries."
Following changes to appeals committee
In the last few months, quite a few cases made the headlines in which the seminary schools – post elementary academic institutions for girls – refused candidates on the basis of their ethnic background. The Appeals Committee of the Ministry of Education was established in 2010, in order to allow parents whose children have experienced discrimination in admission to an educational institution, to complain about it.
During this period there were complaints, but the committee did not justify any of them," said an Education Ministry official. "Three months ago we made changes to the composition of the committee and since then, it has justified about 70% of the complaints parents submitted, and ordered the institutions found to be discriminating to accept the candidates who were rejected.”
Two weeks ago, the Education Ministry began an education campaign in the haredi media calling for parents to file complaints about discrimination. Since then, the ministry has reported an increase of 300% in complaints received.
No patience for discrimination
According to the Education Ministry, they “receive a complaint from a student who applied to the institution but was not accepted. We are talking about a student from a good home, with good grades, but according to her, the institution did not accept her because in the interview they felt that she was not strong enough in a spiritual sense, or because she did not impress them enough.
"The parents send a fax to the committee in which they describe the complaint, and attach the rejection letter from the institution and their appeal. The committee members study the complaint, and invite the parents and the director of the institution in question; afterwards, they reach a decision. Of course, the institutions do not say that the reason for rejection is based on ethnicity, but the committee members understand when the reason is such.”
According to the same source, thus far, they have not met with refusal on the part of institutions to accept students found to have been rejected due to ethnic discrimination. "They understand that the Education Ministry has the power to deny certain budgets, revoke licenses, to issue closure orders, and I am sure they do not want this."
The Ministry added that institutions will find there is a "zero tolerance policy for discrimination on any basis when it comes to educational institutions."
The Appeals Committee was scheduled to complete its work today, but following the numerous complaints received, the Education Ministry Director General Dalit Stauber decided to extend the deadline for filing complaints by 10 days, to Sunday, August 25. Complaints may be submitted by fax to telephone (02) 560-1449.
Attorney Yoav Laloum, from the organization Noar KaHalacha, said that Education Minister Shai Piron should be congratulated on the changes he made to the appeal committee, noting that Piron’s influence could be felt, as could “a change in the conduct of the committee. We pray and hope that he has the strength to deal with the problem of limitations (to the number of Sephardic girls) in the seminary schools, which remains unchanged."
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