Demanding that the Education Ministry Provide Personal Assistant to Disabled Arab Bedouin Child During School Hours

Beer el-Sebe Administrative Court 385/09 Jibril Ziadneh v. The Ministry of Education

On 15 August 2009, Adalah submitted a petition to the Beer el-Sabe (Beer Sheva) Administrative Court demanding that it compel the Ministry of Education (MOE) to allocate a personal assistant to an Arab Bedouin child with serious physical disabilities to accompany him throughout the school day. Adalah stressed that he is unable to attend school without such assistance. Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher submitted the petition on behalf of the child and his parents. The court has scheduled an emergency hearing on the petition for 1 October 2009.

The child lives in an unrecognized village in the Naqab (Negev). He is wheel chair-bound and depends on the help of others to provide for all his daily needs. However, his mental health is unaffected and he is able to integrate into school alongside other children of his age.

Adalah demanded that the court hold an emergency hearing and issue a temporary injunction compelling the MOE to allocate a personal assistant to him. Adalah argued in the petition that in 2002 the Knesset enacted an amendment to the Special Education Law – 1988 to include a section entitled “Integration”. This amendment stipulates that priority must be given to the integration of pupils with special needs into the regular education system.

Adalah emphasized that in May 2006, the MOE’s integration committee that discussed the case of the child in question decided that he had the right to be integrated into the regular education system. It further decided that a personal assistant should be appointed to accompany him at school. However, it did not set out the assistant’s working hours.

Adalah argued that in regulations published by the MOE in 2007, it was determined that pupils with serious physical disabilities were entitled to be accompanied by a personal assistant through the school day. Despite this decision, the MOE decided that this particular child is entitled to 24 hours of assistance per week only, far below the 40 hours a week of classes he should attend. As a result, he is forced to leave school before his classmates and is unable to attend certain classes, to the detriment of his educational and social development.

Over the last few years, the child’s parents have contacted the MOE repeatedly and requested that the hours of his personal assistant be increased. All of their requests were initially rejected, before the intervention by NGOs. However, at the start of the current school year, and after ongoing negotiations between the child’s parents and the MOE, the latter decided again that the child is entitled to just 24 hours of assistance per week.

Adalah argued that the reduction in the hours of assistance provided to the child violates his rights to an education that is appropriate to his needs as a person with special needs. It further contradicts the decision of the integration committee from May 2006, and constitutes a breach of the law, which obliges the MOE to provide an assistant to accompany the child throughout the school day. The MOE’s decision also infringes the principle of safeguarding the interests of the child.

Admin. File 385/09 (Beer-el-Sabe Administrative Court), Jibril Ziadneh v. The Ministry of Education