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Volume 20, November 2005

Haifa District Court: Misgav Regional Council Must Resume Transportation and Pay Education Fees for Children from Arab Bedouin Villages in the North

In a decision issued on 6 November 2005, in response to a petition filed by Adalah, the Haifa District Court ordered the Misgav Regional Council and the Ministry of Education (MOE) to allow children from the Arab Bedouin villages of Kammaneh and Husseniya to continue studying at primary and secondary schools in the village of Nahaf in the north of Israel. The Court also compelled the Misgav Regional Council to continue to pay for their “external students’ education fees,” and to resume bus transportation for the children to their schools in Nahaf, the route to and from which from their homes is approximately 15 kilometers in length.

At the beginning of the current school year, the Misgav Regional Council suspended bus services for school children from the two villages, claiming that a decision had been previously made to re-register the pupils at another school in the village of Wadi Salami, the route to and from which from the two villages is around 25 kilometers. Following the decision, the Council discontinued funding for the children’s “external students’ education fees,” as well as transportation to their schools in Nahaf. Moreover, the Council did not inform the children’s families of the decision to transfer the students or the discontinuation of the bus transportation, as it is obliged to do under the law.

After their transportation was halted, the majority of the 150 children affected by the decision were forced to travel the 15 kilometers to and from their schools on foot on a daily basis. Their journey by foot included crossing the main road between Akka (Akko) and Safad, which posed a great danger to their lives, and often left them arriving to school late and exhausted.

In its decision, the Court criticized Misgav Regional Council for its mishandling of the situation and its failure to fulfill its duties as a local educational authority under the law. The Court decided that the Council’s failure to inform the children’s families of its decision constitutes a violation of their due process rights to object against the decision and to attempt to convince the various bodies within the Council and the MOE to allow their children to continue to attend schools in Nahaf. The Haifa District Court added that the Council had failed in its obligations by not announcing the re-registration of the children and the suspension of the bus services to the children’s families, thereby contravening the education registration regulations.

Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher submitted the petition to Haifa District Court on 10 October 2005, in Adalah’s own name, in the name of parents of school students from Kammaneh and Husseniya who go to primary and secondary schools in Nahaf and a teacher from a school in Nahaf.

In the petition, Adalah challenged the Regional Council’s decision to halt bus transportation for the children to their school in Nahaf and to re-register pupils due to enter the seventh and tenth grades in another school in Wadi Salami. Adalah argued that the respondents had acted illegally by not informing the families of the re-registration of their children at another school, as well as by stopping the transportation without prior announcement. The petitioners emphasized that the respondents are obliged to provide free education for children in the two villages under Israeli law, which requires the state to provide transportation for students to and from their schools. Therefore, the suspension of the bus transportation infringes the children’s constitutional right to an education. Adalah further contended that transferring the pupils to another school would unnecessarily harm them, since they have commenced their studies at their current schools, as well as their parents, who have invested in preparing their children for the present school year according to the educational timetable followed in these schools. Furthermore, the Regional Council’s decision to transfer students about to enter the seventh and tenth grades to schools in Wadi Salami contradicts Supreme Court case law, according to which parents enjoy the discretion to decide which school their children will attend.

Admin. Petition 1345/05, Muhammad Ibrahim Sawaed, et. al. v. Misgav Regional Council and Ministry of Education (Haifa District Court)

 The Court's Decision (H)