Bills would ban indicted sex offenders from teaching

Bills would ban indicted sex offenders from teaching

Proposed legislation, which would force police to inform schools of allegations, clears preliminary reading unanimously

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Illustrative: Shaul Shamai (c), suspected of molesting his students while acting as a substitute teacher, arrives escorted by prison guards at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court, June 13, 2017. (Flash90)
Illustrative: Shaul Shamai (c), suspected of molesting his students while acting as a substitute teacher, arrives escorted by prison guards at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court, June 13, 2017. (Flash90)

Lawmakers on Wednesday gave a preliminary nod to proposals banning schools and camps from hiring anyone indicted for sex crimes, toughening the existing law that applies only to those convicted of such offenses.

The three bills — by Likud MK David Bitan, Yesh Atid MK Aliza Lavie and Zionist Union MK Mickey Rosenthal, and Zionist Union MK Eitan Cabel — cleared the plenum unanimously with 65 Knesset members in favor.

The proposed legislation was expected to be consolidated into a single bill in the Knesset’s Constitution, Law, and Justice committee before the three additional readings that would pass it into law.

“We discovered a lacuna in the [existing] law,” said Cabel on Wednesday. “That same gap has allowed people who are on trial for sex crimes… to continue being among girls and boys in the school framework. We cannot allow this reality to exist.”

The proposed legislation would also force police to notify schools when indictments are handed down against their employees and would require educational staff to perform background checks on their employees every four years.

“Unfortunately, there have been more than a few cases of people who have attacked minors and continued working in schools, kindergartens or camps, after they were already accused of sex crimes and with the police aware of the danger they pose,” said Rosenthal.

Yesh Atid MK Aliza Lavie speaks during an Interior Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset, June 14, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Also addressing the plenum, Lavie said Israel’s practice of not publicizing a sex offender registry makes the bill of particular importance.

“There are countries that publish the list of sex offenders on the internet and everyone can know who in their surroundings is accused of crimes,” she said. “We keep that knowledge from the public such that it cannot protect itself.”

In June, a Tel Aviv substitute teacher was indicted for indecently assaulting several 7-year-old girls and one 13-year-old girl. He was also charged with failing to report his previous conviction for sexual offenses to the school where he was employed, drawing an outcry from parents.

In November, a Jerusalem court freed a rabbi accused of raping a 14-year-old at the religious girls’ school where he worked after prosecutors withdrew the charges against him, saying the case was unlikely to result in a conviction. Prosecutors said that as a result of an “evidential development” in the plaintiff’s testimony, there was no longer a “reasonable chance” of convicting David Harrison, who was indicted last December.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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