A 7-year-old girl attending a non-religious state school in Petah Tikva was on Monday made to spend the day in just her underwear and a T-shirt because she arrived in a sleeveless dress, contrary to school rules.
"I saw how the other kids were laughing at her," the girl's mother said of the moment she came to collect her and realized how she had been made to spend the entire school day.
Israel is currently experiencing an unprecedented heatwave, with temperatures across the country reaching above 40°C.
The girl's mother told Ynet: "I sent my daughter to school in a sleeveless dress and in her bag I put a sweater with sleeves to cover up if she got cold. A few hours later, the school called me and said the dress she was wearing wasn't in line with the dress code and that I should bring her different clothes."
The mother told the teacher that she couldn't come because she herself was in class.
"I explained that the girl's bag contained a sweater with sleeves. The teacher replied that it was also inappropriate because it did not bear the school logo and that she would provide a T-shirt with one," the mother said.
"I was sure she would put the shirt over the dress, but instead she asked the girl to go to the bathroom, take off her dress and put on the shirt - and so the girl was left in just the shirt and her underwear. When she returned from the bathroom [the teacher] did not say that there was anything was wrong [with her apparel] and let her stay in her underwear and the T-shirt for the rest of the day. "
When the mother arrived to collect her daughter from school at around noon, she was amazed to see her with her lower body exposed.
"I was in shock, I couldn't believe it. I saw my daughter and saw how the other kids were laughing at her. I asked the teacher why she did it and she said that the rules stated it is forbidden to wear a sleeveless dress. I told her: 'so just underwear is okay?'"
According to the mother, "the girl doesn't want to talk about it and doesn't want to go to school anymore. I have started looking for a new school for her."
She added: "The child has language difficulties, she speaks Russian and finds its very difficult to speak Hebrew... I think there is racism here against Russians. I don't think teachers like this should be working in education. It's awful, I have no words."
Attorney Victoria Roitman, who is representing the family, said: "A police complaint has been filed today, and we have a school meeting tomorrow. We are demanding an investigation and appropriate punishment as this is a serious case. How we proceed depends on the outcome of the meeting."
Roitman added: "The girl has withdrawn within herself and not ready to talk about the situation at all. She was crying and felt very humiliated. She is not ready to go back to the school under any circumstances. The school's official claim was that the girl was wearing shorts, but it was clearly underwear. It's simply a disgrace."
The Ministry of Education said in response: "The issue of the dress code lies with the school authorities. Nonetheless, the ministry very much regrets the incident, and notes that there was room for more sensitivity. A conversation was held with the principal and things were made clear to her."
A child protection source told Ynetnews: "Abuse of this nature can cause long-lasting damage to a child's self-esteem.
"Isolating and stigmatizing a child in this way in front of her classmates is likely to have a negative impact on her friendships. I cannot see how any right-minded person who cares about children's mental health could think otherwise," the source said.
"It raises serious questions about whether someone who could treat a child so cruelly is fit to shape young minds."