Mar 31, 2014

Court questions discriminatory practice in Arab and Druze schools

Patrick Ryan

March 14, 2014

Education Ministry rules forbid dismissal of teachers during school year, but not for Arabs and Druze.

By Yarden Skop and Eli Ashkenazi

Education Ministry regulations allowing Arab or Druze teachers to be fired in the middle of the school year have been criticized by the Haifa Labor Court as “raising serious questions, to say the least.”

The court was hearing a suit brought by Rawda Shakour, a Druze teacher who was dismissed during the school year, and the Teachers Union.

Shakour had worked for four years as a teacher for children with special needs at a school in the Kisra-Samia regional council. She argued that her dismissal was the result of a discriminatory practice used only in the Arab and Druze sectors, which allows teachers to be fired during the first month of the school year, based on “placement errors."

Shakour and the union maintained that “there was no real or relevant reason to make exceptions to the rules that protect teachers from dismissal before the end of the school year, which are supposed to apply to all teachers throughout the country, Jews and Arabs. The exception allows such dismissal early in the school year in the Druze and Arab sectors. This contradicts the strict ban on such firing.”

The Ministry of Education’s guidelines forbid terminating a teacher’s job during a school year, except in the most serious circumstances. The appellants claimed that additional clauses were added in order to bypass the rule when applied to Arab and Druze teachers. According to a sworn statement submitted to the court by Jamal Kabishi, head of the personnel department in the ministry’s northern division, “the procedures for transfers, placements and granting makeup hours in the Arab sector developed in light of the very high supply of teachers with few available positions.” Similar procedures exist in Druze schools.

The judges wrote in their ruling that “no proof was provided that similar procedures exist in Jewish schools.” Regarding the procedure that is specific to Arab and Druze schools, the judges wrote in their ruling that “it is hard to ignore the fact that placement procedures provide a protective umbrella for the Ministry in case of errors in placement of teachers, allowing it to fire teachers without any hearing or explanation given to the employee, and apparently without compensation. This is so whether done innocently or due to other considerations.”

The court announced that a final decision would be made with regard to the main suit and not as part of a decision regarding a temporary injunction. At the same time, the judges denied the teacher’s request to annul her dismissal, saying that it would be too disruptive to pupils since two-thirds of the school year had already elapsed.