Challenging the Discriminatory Appointment of Educational Psychologists for Arab Bedouin Schools in the Naqab.

HCJ 4177/04, Yusef Abu-Abied, et al. v. The Ministry of Education, et al.

Petition submitted to the Supreme Court in 5/04 on behalf of five individuals - parents of children in the towns of Lagiyya and Rahat - the Follow-up Committee on Arab Education, the National Union of Arab Parents, the Naqab Culture Association, the Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages in the Naqab, and in Adalah’s own name, demanding that the Ministry of Education (MOE) provide the necessary number of educational psychologists’ positions to schools in the seven government-planned Arab Bedouin towns in the Naqab – Rahat, Lagiyya, Kessife, 'Arora, Segev Shalom, Hura and Tel el-Sabe' (Tel Sheva). Adalah further requested that the Court instruct the MOE and the Ministry of Social Affairs, the respondents in the case, to allocate educational psychologists’ positions between Jewish and Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel in the Naqab according to equitable standards.

MOE-appointed educational psychologists are primarily responsible for identifying, diagnosing and treating students with learning and developmental disabilities; providing suitable educational frameworks for students with special needs; giving consultation to teachers, principals, and other educators in dealing with the educational, emotional and behavioral difficulties of students; and providing consultation on the community level. The MOE's criteria for the number of positions allocated in each town in order to provide suitable educational psychological services for children are one position per 500 kindergarten and first graders; one position per 1,000 students in the second grade through high school; and one position per 300 special education students. However, only 15 of 49 educational psychologists’ positions have actually been allocated in the seven Arab Bedouin towns (equating to 30% of the recommended total). In comparison, 21.6 (or 80%) of the 27 positions designated in accordance with the MOE’s criteria in Jewish towns in the Naqab currently exist.

Adalah argued that the respondents have failed to fulfill their obligation in accordance with their own set criteria, thereby violating the students’ right to education, and perpetuating discrimination against Arab Bedouin students in the Naqab. Adalah further argued that attending to the special needs and mental wellbeing of students by providing educational psychologists’ services is an institutional responsibility under the Special Education Law – 1998. The MOE’s failure to do so impedes and prevents the students’ regular course of study. As the MOE has appointed most of the educational psychologists in line with its own set criteria in the Jewish towns in the Naqab, its gross failure to do so in the Arab Bedouin towns constitutes discrimination. Moreover, the MOE’s discriminatory implementation of its own set criteria violates the rule of law. The right to education, Adalah further argued, is a constitutional right, a component of the right to dignity, particularly when it concerns students being barred from elementary and basic educational services.

In 2/05, the state requested and received an extension of 45 days in order to prepare their response to the petition, following the decision of the Supreme Court in another petition filed by Adalah (H.C. 6671/03, Munjid Abu Ghanem, et. al. v. Ministry of Education, et. al.). In this case, the Court decided that the educational gap between the Jewish and Arab Bedouin in the Naqab requires a policy of affirmative action to bring the Arab Bedouin to a similar starting point to that of the Jewish population, in order to achieve equal opportunities for all social groups.

In 6/05, the AG submitted its response to the Court, in which it acknowledged that the MOE had discriminated against schools in the seven government-planned Palestinian Bedouin townships in the Naqab in the appointment of educational psychologists for students. In its response, the state also informed the Court that the MOE had committed to increasing the number of positions from the beginning of the new school year in fall 2005 from 30% to 50% of the positions it is required to provide, to rise to 80% within two years, so as to become equal to the current rate (80%) provided to Jewish schools in the Naqab. The state also obligated itself to pursue a policy of affirmative action in education over the long term for the Arab Bedouin towns in the Naqab. In 6/05, the case was dismissed and the state ordered to pay Adalah's legal fees.

H.C. 4177/04, Yusef Abu-Abied, et. al. v. Ministry of Education, et. al. (Decision delivered 21/6/05).

H.C. 4177/04, Yusef Abu-Abied, et. al. v. The Ministry of Education, et. al. (petition withdrawn).