Teacher reinstated after suspension for class discussion of judicial overhaul

In hearing with Rishon Lezion municipality, Amir Kliger agrees to comply with school instructions permitting only short conversation on topic at start of school day

Illustrative: View of an empty school at in Tel Aviv following a strike of the Teachers Union, on June 19, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Illustrative: View of an empty school at in Tel Aviv following a strike of the Teachers Union, on June 19, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

A teacher suspended for initiating a class discussion about the impending judicial overhaul was reinstated on Sunday after a hearing with the Rishon Lezion municipality.

Amir Kliger, 43, was summoned earlier in February by his school’s administration for a hearing on the potential termination of his employment contract due to allegations of “incitement” on his part due to the class discussion.

According to a report in the Haaretz daily, Kliger was asked to attend a hearing at the city’s municipality, where it was agreed that he would return to his teaching position, while he agreed to respect the wishes of the school.

The report also said that, before returning to his role, Kliger would wait to receive a letter from the municipality acknowledging that by suspending him, the school had infringed upon his rights.

In the hearing, the municipality emphasized that the teacher had violated the school principal’s instructions, which permitted a short discussion on the judicial overhaul at the beginning of the day, whereas Kliger reportedly conducted an extensive discussion that lasted hours.

Rishon Lezion City Hall received complaints from parents about the content, as well as the length, of the discussion, Haaretz reported. Kliger, however, said that the discussion was extended only due to the many questions asked by the students.

Video posted to social media showed a group of approximately 150 teachers, students and parents supporting the suspended teacher as he arrived for his hearing.

A lawyer representing the reinstated teacher was quoted as saying: “Amir [Kliger] has been a teacher at the school for seven years and there has never been a complaint made against him. He is not committed to anything other than continuing to be who he is.”

Kliger said he had opened the class discussion by reading an article about the level of youth participation in the current political crisis, and asking his students whether they wanted to debate the topic further. Most were curious and asked questions, leading to a lively and lengthy discussion, which included the screening of a presentation that illustrated some of the risks that the legal overhaul posed to the system of checks and balances in Israel, he said.

The contentious proposals being advanced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-religious coalition include granting it total control over the appointment of judges, including High Court justices; all but eliminating the High Court’s ability to review and strike down legislation; and allowing politicians to appoint — and fire — their own legal advisers.

The plans have spurred mass weekly protests in major cities, alarmed warnings from economists, legal professionals and tech entrepreneurs inside and outside Israel, and fierce criticism from the opposition.

The incident wasn’t the first time Kliger faced criticism for his class discussions. Earlier this year, he was reprimanded by the school’s headmaster after one of the student’s parents filed a complaint over a class discussion relating to the anti-LGBTQ deputy minister Avi Moaz, who was granted significant control over education programming and who recently introduced legislation that would bar schools from teaching lessons on sexual orientation before 9th grade.

The director-general of the Education Ministry, Assaf Tselal, recently sent a letter to the employees of the education system warning them to keep students in a so-called “balanced bubble,” and refrain from expressing views on the judicial overhaul.

Harry Roper contributed to this report. 

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