Transgender boy to be removed from religious school against parents’ wishes

Parents of 8-year-old and those of classmates say they’ve been informed of decision to send him to a different school, but Education Ministry denies anything has been resolved

Illustration of an empty classroom in a school in Mevaseret Zion, August 27, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustration of an empty classroom, August 27, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Parents of an 8-year-old transgender student said Tuesday that they had been informed by the Education Ministry that the boy would be forced to move from a religious school in central Israel midway through the academic year, and that they planned to appeal the decision.

The child has not yet been transferred and no decision has been made on where he will go to school.

The boy’s parents told the Kan public broadcaster their child was being punished for who he is.

However, the Education Ministry denied that a decision had been made in the case, which has roiled the school in the central city of Givat Shmuel for several months.

“The information is not correct,” the ministry told Kan. “This is a complicated, unique and sensitive case and the ministry and the educational team is working only for the good of the student.”

The ministry said it could not give further details without violating the child’s privacy.

The child, who is in third grade at a national-religious school, was born female but today identifies as male. Religious schools separate classes by gender starting in fourth grade, and both the school and Education Ministry had supported him being placed in class with other boys next year.

However, for the last several months, other parents at the school and prominent rabbis have protested the boy remaining at his school.

A representative of the other parents said they too had been informed of the decision to move the child and welcomed it.

“After months of struggle and discussions between the parents from the school in Givat Shmuel and the Education Ministry, it was decided that those interested in studying in the state-religious education system are obliged to conduct themselves according to the regulations and its Torah values,” they said. They said would keep their own children out of the school until the decision was implemented.

In recent weeks, the parents of some 15 children had set up an alternative class for their children to protest the boy remaining at the school, stepping up pressure on the ministry, Channel 13 reported.

LGBTQ rights group Hoshen said in a statement that “the ministry decided that political and social considerations are more important than the safety and wellbeing of an 8-year-old boy.”

“You promised above all that there would be no harm to LGBT people, and this morning, you allowed very serious harm to come to a small boy,” the group said, apparently referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government handing authority over external programming in the education system to MK Avi Maoz of the homophobic Noam faction.

Netanyahu has insisted he would not allow harm to come to LGBTQ rights amid concerns that in addition to Maoz’s appointment, anti-discrimination laws could be amended.

In September, a group of 17 rabbis, including several leading figures from the national-religious community, called for the school to force the child into a female-only classroom, saying “fantasies do not change reality.”

“Jewish law doesn’t recognize artificial changes and forbids the behavior and dressing of a boy as a girl or a girl as a boy,” the letter asserted. “It is the role of a religious school to maintain [Jewish law] and act on it” by sending the child to a girls-only class next year.

The letter referred to the student as a “girl with the privilege to grow as a woman and a mother.”

The letter was signed by a number of prominent religious figures, including rabbis Dov Lior, a hardliner with ties to extremist settlers, and Yaakov Ariel, the state-funded chief rabbi of neighboring Ramat Gan.

The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel—Aguda accused the rabbis of putting the child and others “in danger of mental harm that could lead to a loss of life, in total opposition to professional and medical authorities in Israel and around the world.”

“We implore all authorities: leave the boy alone,” the group said, according to Channel 12. “It is in your power to prevent the next tragedy.”

The affair has opened a rift among parents in Givat Shmuel, a national-religious bastion outside Tel Aviv.

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