Haifa Magistrate Court Dismisses Indictments against 41 Parents of Children who Study at the “Hewar” School
On 19 December 2006, the Haifa Magistrate Court decided to dismiss indictments filed against 41 parents of children who study at the Hewar School for Democratic and Alternative Education, alleging violations of the Compulsory Education Law (1949) for sending their children to study at a school without a license. In the decision, the Court accepted the arguments of Adalah Attorneys Hassan Jabareen and Sawsan Zaher that the indictments were filed in breach of the Compulsory Education Law itself. The Court further stated that the indictments did not meet all the legal procedural requirements and recommended that the families and the Haifa Municipality open negotiations to resolve all issues of dispute regarding the school.
In response to the decision, Attorney Zaher stated that, “We are pleased with this decision. However, if the Haifa Municipality decides to file indictments against the families again, we will oppose that because it would be cruel to the families, harm the children and thwart the operation of the school. We will not, though, refuse any negotiations with the municipality or the Ministry of Education (MOE) for the sake of the continuity of the administration and operation of the school or to prevent other indictments.”
Adalah’s argument that the indictments were filed illegally is based on a clear definition in Article 4 b(2) of the Compulsory Education Law, which stipulates that a parent cannot be tried under the law unless written notice is given to him or her by the principal of the school via registered mail. In addition, the written notice must explain in a clear and detailed manner that failure by the parent to respond will result in legal action against him or her, after a period of seven days from the receipt of the letter. In this case, none of the parents received such notice.
Adalah further argued that, in light of the circumstances surrounding the case of the Hewar School, the filing of the indictments and the use of criminal procedures against the children’s parents contradicts the goals of the Compulsory Education Law, which are to prevent pupils from dropping out of school and parents from neglecting their children. However, in this case, there is no question of neglect or dropping out; the parents are very interested in their children’s education, and for that reason established a new school for them, for which they are currently seeking recognition from the (MOE). Therefore, the case is not one to which the Compulsory Education Law typically applies, and the use of the criminal system and the filing of indictments against the children’s parents actually contradicts its goals.
A disagreement between the parties began three years ago. At that time, Hewar: The Arab Association for Alternative Education and the children’s parents petitioned the Supreme Court of Israel seeking to establish the first Arab school in Haifa to work according to an alternative, democratic curriculum. The Supreme Court granted the request, and the Hewar School began to operate from the beginning of the 2004-2005 school year in a temporary building in Haifa. During the second year of the school’s functioning, 2005-2006, another disagreement between the children’s parents / the Hewar Association and the Haifa Municipality began over the issue of a permanent building for the school. This disagreement intensified, with the Hewar Association arguing that the Haifa Municipality was attempting to restrict its involvement in the management of the school. As a result, the parents stopped sending their children to school, and began to set up another school to work on the basis of the originally-planned curriculum. Since the beginning of the 2006-2007 school year, the alternative school has been located on Mair Street in Haifa, and approximately 55 children have been studying there each day. In parallel, the Hewar Association began the process of applying to the MOE to obtain a license as a recognized but private school.
At the same time, the Haifa Municipality continued to operate the original school under the same name of “Hewar” but in a different building. Just 17 children study there.
Because the children are not being sent to study at the recognized school, which is run by the Haifa Municipality, the latter decided, in October 2006, to file indictments against the children’s parents for allegedly breaching the Compulsory Education Law, under which parents are obliged to send their children to a recognized educational institution. Adalah began representing the children’s parents and the Hewar Association in November 2006.
C.C. 1195/06, The State of Israel v. Suheil and Nuha As’ad (Haifa Magistrate Court, decision delivered 19.12.06)