International headlines placed a spotlight on an Israeli school after students posted racist WhatsApp messages written by their teachers.
Despite global outrage, the nation’s Education Ministry has decided not to fire the teachers for mocking Black students.
During Netivot HaTorah Day School’s annual overnight trip, teachers selected as chaperones shared racist texts about the Ethiopian students with each other on a popular app. The chat administrator set up the chat’s title as “Black School Trip” and littered the comments with bigoted jokes about the students’ African heritage and remarks about their race.
One student snapped a shot of the chat while peeping over her teacher’s shoulder and posted it online. Instantly, the media and social media users blasted the instructors for their mean-spirited and racist candor in the chat — specifically the terms they used for the Black teenagers.
Israel’s Education Ministry was immediately contacted and said it would investigate the chat.
On Wednesday, March 22, the Israeli agency publicly announced the decision not to remove the educators, according to the Times of Israel.
The teachers reportedly stated they were sorry for the comments made on the app and accepted a reprimand by the government agency.
However, the specifics regarding the “reprimand” remain unclear.
Ministry southern region administrator Ram Zahavi stated the teachers were brought in and questioned about their participation in the chat. The educators are said to have received “fundamental and comprehensive clarifications, as well as a [disciplinary] hearing, and in the end, we used the disciplinary tools we have at our disposal.”
Zahavi said he “emphasized to the teachers that there’s no place for harmful or racist commentary in Israeli society and especially in the education system, and it is on us to give a personal example.”
The ministry shared the teachers will be up for review for their jobs at the institution before the next school year starts.
National Unity MK Pnina Tamano-Shata, a former immigration minister who is of Ethiopian descent, blasted the ministry for its decision.
“The Education Ministry decision is humiliating and a green light for racism,” she said.
Tamano-Shata further stated the teachers “need to be removed from the field of education by having their teaching licenses revoked.”
The decision comes a day after the Education Ministry stopped a national school strike by the national parents’ organization, in opposition to the agency’s planned Bagrut (matriculation exams) reforms and sanctions by the Teachers Union, according to The Jerusalem Post.
Still, many on social media believe the move was another wrong decision by the ministry. Jewish blogger Safta Miriam called the agency “cowards” and said their decision was “terrible.”
“What kind of leadership example are they setting?” she tweeted.
Another Twitter user, Barbara McCullough, wrote, “Not at all surprised” that no teachers were fired.
Retired teacher Robert Robertson wrote, “Wow. Jews in Israel showing ‘racism?’ That’s interesting. You’d think it was just Palestinians they hated. They hate Africans too? Just wow.”
The student who snapped the original photograph of the chat has not remarked on the Education Ministry’s decision.
However, she said at the time, “It’s simply sad, as a member of the [Ethiopian] community, to see how far you have fallen today.”
“Instead of being our teachers and serving as role models and allowing us to feel our safest, you have done the opposite… I see these pictures and do not believe they came from our teachers. You are simply embarrassments. We are ashamed that you are our teachers and that you are teaching the future generation.”