Teachers call high school strike over attacks by students

Teachers call high school strike over attacks by students

Education Ministry urged to push legislation to make teachers civil servants, increasing severity of crimes against them

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative photo of an empty school classroom. (Mendy Hechtman/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of an empty school classroom. (Mendy Hechtman/Flash90)

The Israel Teacher’s Union said Thursday it was calling a nationwide high school strike at the beginning of next week to protest the Education Ministry’s failure to address concerns over violence faced by teaching staff in the classroom.

Teachers were already holding sporadic daylong strikes at selected high schools around the country in a separate demand for higher wages.

The declaration came the day after a pupil in the southern region Bedouin town of Tel Sheva attacked a teacher with a wooden pole, causing him to lose consciousness and necessitating hospital treatment. A complaint was filed with police.

The strike was set for next Sunday for grades 10-12. The union noted that its members in middle schools will also strike, a move that was expected to impact many schools teaching 7-9th graders.

In the past, teachers have held local strikes following incidents of classroom violence, but after Wednesday’s assault the union said it intends to take its campaign up a notch.

“For a long time already the union has warned the Education Ministry and its leader about the culture of violent acts against teachers, and nothing was done,” the union said in a statement. “The local strikes also didn’t move the Education Ministry to act, and now a teacher nearly lost his life.”

Ran Erez, at the time chairman of the Secondary-School Teachers’ Association, attends at a State Control Committee meeting at the Knesset on July 20, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ran Erez, director of the Israel Teachers Union, said he wants to ministry the push legislation that will categorize teachers as civil servants, a status that increases the severity of crimes against them.

“Are they waiting until a teacher is murdered in Israel to advance legislation that will increase the punishment and deterrence against harming teachers?” Erez asked in a statement.

On Wednesday upper grades in 70 high schools from the Darca, Tomashin and World ORT Kadima Mada chains were already on strike in support of an ongoing demand by teachers for better wages and claims the government is procrastinating over talks.

The teachers’ union wants an immediate monthly gross wage increase for starting teachers from NIS 6,400 ($1,820) to NIS 8,000 ($2,275), along with a comparable raise for teachers with up to seven years experience. In addition, the union said that teachers who have been teaching for eight years or more must receive an extra NIS 600 ($170) a month.

While Education Minister Naftali Bennett has given his support to the teachers’ demand for a better starting wage, the Finance Ministry is less willing to adopt the plan and has been negotiating a compromise.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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