Adalah has petitioned the District Court in Bir el-Sabe (Beersheva) to demand the cancellation of the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) decision to transfer 55 Arab Bedouin children in the Naqab (Negev) who are enrolled in a special education program located in Kassifa to another school in the village of Molda/Attrash. The new school is located far from the students’ homes and does not offer them the security and accessibility they need. In addition, the MOE made the decision to transfer the children without following the proper procedures or obtaining their parents’ consent.
Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher filed the petition on 22 November 2012 on behalf of 18 of the children, their parents, and the Arab Education Forum in the Naqab. The children have a range of moderate and severe disabilities that make them dependent on others for mobility. Some are confined to wheelchairs, while others can move independently, but all are eligible to receive special education. The MOE, with the cooperation of the Al-Kasom and Neve Midbar Regional Councils (formerly the Abu Basma Regional Council), made the decision to transfer the students shortly before the beginning of the 2012/2013 school year.
One of the petitioners, a 15-year-old student from the village of Al-Sira, has been diagnosed as severely retarded and requires constant care. She is confined to a wheelchair, has severe motor difficulties, and is unable to care for herself in most ways. Another petitioner, an 8-year-old from Tel Arad, has been diagnosed with general psychological and motor developmental delays and has behavioral difficulties that stem from an inability to perceive danger. A third petitioner, from Al-Fura, suffers from mental disability and deafness, and is unable to orient himself spatially or control his bowels. He has been identified as potentially constituting a danger to himself and others. Because of his weakened immune system, he is also often ill.
Before the transfer of the children, their parents visited the school in Molda/Attrash. The school, which is much further from the students’ homes, requires a significantly longer bus ride, often over badly damaged roads, which endangers the children’s health and even their lives. In addition, the transfer itself and the drastic change it has made to their learning environment has caused many of the students to experience shock and difficulties in adjusting.
The parents learned of the decision to transfer the children to another school only shortly before the beginning of the current school year. The parents state that the MOE notified them of the decision illegally, in violation of educational regulations. Before transferring special-needs students to another school, the MOE is obliged to consult their parents, consider their opinions and gain their consent. It must also perform a thorough assessment of the children’s needs and their medical reports before transferring them, none of which was done. The petitioners therefore contended that the decision to transfer the children must be cancelled.
As Attorney Zaher argued in the petition, transferring the children without following the relevant regulations violated their constitutional rights, namely the right to education and special education, as well as their rights to life, physical integrity, and dignity. It also infringes on their parents’ rights to choose their children’s education and to take part in critical decisions regarding their education.
The special education school in Kassifa has operated for many years and recorded many significant achievements. In 2011, the principal of the school, Mr. Osman Abu Ajaj, received an Award of Excellence on the recommendation of the Director of the Ministry of Education, Dr. Shimson Shoshani.