Monday, January 09, 2006

Agudath Israel Aggressively & Actively Blocking Legislation That Would Protect Our Children

June 28, 2001


Honorable Peter F. Vallone
Honorable Priscilla A. Wooten
Honorable Members of the New York City Council Education Committee

David Zwiebel
Executive Vice President for Government and Public Affairs

Honorable Rudolph W. Giuliani

Members of the Committee of Nonpublic School Officials of New York City

SUBJECT: Intro. No. 933-A

This memo is a follow-up to my memo of June 14 to Peter Vallone and
Priscilla Wooten, in which I requested that the City Council postpone any
action on the captioned legislation until Agudath Israel and other
representatives of New York City's nonpublic school community had an
opportunity to study and comment on the bill.
I am grateful that the City Council acceded to our request; and I take this opportunity now to share with you our concerns about this legislation, as well as to offer what I hope will be seen as a constructive suggestion.

Section 3 of the bill would add a new Section 10-124 to the New York
City Administrative Code, requiring any employee of any public or private
school who "witnesses or has reasonable cause to believe that a crime
involving the health or safety of a child has occurred or has been
threatened in an educational setting" to immediately report such information
to the Police Department and to the school principal.
After those reports are made, the principal is obligated to "promptly notify the parent or legal guardian of a child about whom a report has been made" unless
the Police Department determines that such notification would impede a
criminal investigation. Failure to comply with these requirements would
be classified as a criminal misdemeanor.

This proposal is apparently a response to several incidents in public
school settings that might have been avoided had the police been brought
into the picture at an earlier stage. Without in any way denigrating
the seriousness of those few incidents, or the need to find ways to try
to avoid such incidents in the future, we question whether the approach
embodied in the proposed legislation is the most appropriate means of
achieving that purpose.

Based on the input we have received from the Jewish school principals with whom we have discussed this issue, we are concerned that any legislation that strips principals of their professional discretion to handle sensitive situations in the manner they deem most appropriate would do more harm than good.

It is important to recognize that even under existing law, schools
cannot simply ignore situations that threaten the health or safety of
students. A school's common law duty to care for its students imposes upon
principals and other responsible school authorities the obligation to
take reasonable steps to deal with harmful or dangerous conduct. Those
steps may include, under certain circumstances, notifying the police
about actual or threatened criminal activity. At the same time, principals
and other school authorities have a great deal of professional
discretion in how to deal with individual situations. So long as they do not
abuse that discretion by acting negligently or otherwise abrogating their
duty to care, they are free to deal with situations in ways that they
understand to be in the best interests of the child or children under
their care.

Thus, for example, under existing law, if a student is caught smoking
marijuana, a principal may decide to deal with the problem by referring
the child to a drug counselor. Or, if a student is acting in a
physically threatening manner toward one of his peers, the principal may decide
that the problem can best be addressed through a phone call to the
aggressive child's parents. Or, if a model teacher who has a longstanding
unblemished record is provoked into lashing out at a troublemaking
student, the principal may decide to address the incident by having a
heart-to-heart chat with the teacher and student. Or, in any of these cases
or others like them, the principal may decide that the matter is best
dealt with through the school's internal disciplinary system, or by
suspending or expelling the offending party, or by calling in the police.
The existing law recognizes that one size does not necessarily fit all
situations, and that knowledgeable school authorities are the ones best
equipped to serve as gatekeepers in determining whether any given
situation merits the extreme step of bringing in the police.

Under the proposed new legislation, however, all such school-based
discretion and professional judgment would be removed. School employees who
witness or have reasonable cause to believe that a crime involving the
health or safety of a child has been threatened or actually committed
would have to call the police immediately – no matter what the magnitude
of the crime, no matter who or how old the perpetrator, no matter what
the surrounding circumstances, no matter what the school principal and
student guidance counselor may consider most appropriate. The bill
would thus operate in blunderbuss fashion and effectuate a sea change in
the way principals and other key school employees deal with problems that
may arise in their school settings.

The Jewish school principals with whom we consulted were unanimous in
their opinion that this change would be a change for the worse, not for
the better. Their experience has been that most cases are best-handled
internally, without police intervention. They are especially troubled
by the prospect of having to call in the police for student-on-student
conduct. They point out that personal trust is the most critical tool a
principal has in effectively dealing with problems that may arise in a
school setting – personal trust between the school administration and
its staff, between the school administration and its students, between
the school administration and its parent body – and that bringing in the
police as soon as a crime is committed or even suspected is likely to
destroy that foundation of personal trust, thereby making it exceedingly
difficult to deal effectively with many of the problems that are far
better addressed by school personnel at the school site.

It is thus our view that the bill's failure to allow for principals to
exercise professional judgment and discretion in dealing with actual or
threatened criminal conduct is a serious flaw. This is especially so
with respect to nonpublic schools, where there has been little if any
evidence that the existing system does not adequately protect children,
and where any such inadequacy can easily be addressed simply through
parents' decisions to remove their children from the school.

There are several ways in which this legislation might be improved:
limiting the mandatory reporting provision to adult-on-child crime;
limiting the types of crimes that have to be reported to felonies that
pose a clear and present danger to children; excluding nonpublic schools
from the ambit of legislation that is ultimately a response to a
perceived problem in the public schools.

Most fundamentally, and in addition to these possible improvements, our
recommendation would be that the bill be revised to simply codify and
amplify the existing common law standard. Thus, the bill could continue
to require school employees immediately to report to their principals
crimes or threatened crimes affecting the health or safety of students,
as the current version of the proposed legislation does; and then
establish the principal's legal duty to take reasonable and appropriate
steps to deal with the harmful or dangerous conduct. The bill might spell
out what some of those steps might be, including immediate contact with
the Police Department if the nature of the situation is such that
reasonable care would demand such contact; but the bottom line
responsibility for exercising professional judgment in dealing with any given
situation would rest four-square on the principal's shoulders. Negligent or
reckless failure to discharge that responsibility would represent an
abrogation of a school's duty to care for its children, and could be basis for

Such an approach, we believe, would largely accomplish what the bill's
proponents seek to accomplish, while at the same time preserving the
critical element of professional discretion that has by and large served
schools and students well.

Many thanks for your consideration of our views.


UOJ Comments

I thank JWB for submitting this Agudath Israel Internal Memo.
They are effectively attempting to block legislation that would allow the police to be brought in when criminal conduct is uncovered.
If a crime was committed at the Agudah, would they call the Novominsker Rebbe or would they call the police?

Dovid Zweibel, why protect the principals when they are the worst offenders?
Where is the oversight from criminal behavior that the principal's perpetrate?
Is covering up a crime better or worse than committing the crime? We know molesters have been kept on yeshiva's payroll long after the molester was discovered.

Chaim Dovid you are a disgrace to our community!


Un-Orthodox Jew said...

I apologize for the way the format of the post came out. I will try to restructure the layout of the sentences later.

Anonymous said...

UOJ, do you believe that all student on student acts should be reported, or only teacher on student? How would you propose dealing with false accusations?

Un-Orthodox Jew said...

Criminal accusations should be handled by the police.

We need to get serious about crime, weeding out all criminals is a good way to start.

It's messy, but we need to get tough.

Anonymous said...

i agree with you, but do you trust nys child protective services to do the right thing?

Un-Orthodox Jew said...

They are much better than what we have now, nothing.

Boog said...

"professional discretion that has by and large served schools and students well."

Schools, yes! Students, No!

This is surreal, Rod Serling twilight-zone stuff. Kids psychologically and emotionally maimed for life and Zwiebel trots out this self-serving bull-shit.

We are living through Perek Chelek in Sanhedrin: "Pnei Ha'dor, K'Pnei hakelev." The dogs are leading us...where will this all end?

Un-Orthodox Jew said...


Zweibel's behavior can no longer be excused as "a lawyer doing his job".

He is guilty of the greatest sin possible, being an accomplice to crimes that kill yiddishe kinderlach l'dor doros.

Boog said...

Crying shame, really. SOLD OUT!

He should have gotten out like Avigdor did a few years ago. Gone to a private law firm and made a helluva lot more money without selling his soul. (hopefully).

This tawdry memo and most recently his very lame defense of MBP has irrevocably tainted him.

P.S. Hey Avigdor, you disingenuous Shtarker; the next time you write a letter to the Ed. of The Jewish Week or any other newspaper on the topic of MBP, announce the fact that you are a former paid Counsel of the Agudah. It will place your comments and remarks in their proper perspective.

Anonymous said...

Haaretz, Wed., January 11, 2006 Tevet 11, 5766

Thanking God for the stroke

By Bradley Burston

If e-mails could kill, Ariel Sharon would not have lived past that first long night.

Let it be stressed, and stressed again, that the vast majority of letters from readers were, in fact, frank and full and heartfelt prayers for a stricken leader.

Let it be emphasized that the vast majority of those who disagreed entirely with Sharon's policies and actions, be they Jewish, Muslim or Christian, still were most forthcoming in wishes for his survival and recovery.

Then there were the others.

They came from all over. Vile, snide letters, incomparably cowardly pot shots at an elderly man fighting for his life.

Letters wishing him swift death, letters wishing him hellish torture before lingering, agonizing death. Letters and more letters thanking God for the stroke.

Some wrote in to express support for the aging Damascus-based onetime Palestinian terror warlord and tireless self-aggrandizer Ahmed Jibril, who wedged himself back into the momentary limelight by thanking the Almighty for Sharon's massive cerebrovascular accident and cerebral hemorrhage, calling it "this gift He presented to us on this new year."

Others seconded the latest oratorical gem by the president of Iran, who could hardly wait for the prime minister to emerge from a seven-hour surgery Thursday to tell a gathering of clerics, "Hopefully, the news that the criminal of Sabra and Chatila has joined his ancestors, is final."

Still a third group rallied around U.S. evangelist Pat Robertson, who -pointing out that he was sad to see the prime minister in his condition and that he had personally prayed a year ago with Sharon, "a very tender-hearted man and a good friend" - informed his 700 Club television show that the biblical prophet Joel "makes it very clear that God has enmity against those who 'divide my land.'"

"God considers this land to be his," Robertson said. "You read the Bible and he says 'This is my land,' and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he is going to carve it up and give it away, God says 'no, this is mine.'"

But Robertson wasn't through with Sharon just yet. "He was dividing God's land and I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU, the United Nations, or the United States of America," Robertson continued, referring to the unilateral pullout from Gaza and the destruction of the 21 settlements there.

"God says, 'This land belongs to me. You better leave it alone.'"

The Robertson camp soon divided into two. The first half wrote in to say that Robertson had been misinterpreted, and that he hadn't meant to suggest that the stroke had been an expression of God's wrath.

The second half wrote in to say that Robertson had, in fact, meant to suggest exactly that, and that they agreed with every word.

Poor taste?

We didn't know what poor taste was, until the e-mails and Talkback responses came in from one last group, which put the others to shame for vehemence, lack of boundaries and all-around obscenity.

"Did you leftists, you self-haters, you Israel-bashers really believe G-d was going to let the Fat Man get away with butchering Gush Katif?" wrote a reader from Boca Raton, Florida.

"Sharon had it coming. G-d saw to it that he would be struck down. He threw thousands of Jews out of their homes," he added. "But the settlers will win in the end. This is the sign, from shamayim [heaven]."

"The Pulsa De Nura, it worked again - the perfect answer to the traitors, the atheists," wrote another, this one from upstate New York, alluding to the Medieval curse renegade rabbis had applied to Yitzhak Rabin before he was assassinated.

A fourth reader, this one from South Africa, wrote this in response to a plea to offer a prayer for the prime minister:

"By all means, let us pray for the prime minister - let us pray that with G-d's help, he'll burn in hell with Rabin forever."

It cannot be stressed enough that these last letters do not speak for, nor do they reflect, the mainstream ranks of the opponents of the disengagement, decent, committed, thoughtful, patriotic.

They reflect only a rabidly radical fringe of Voodoo Jews, who have forged a powerful, bizarre fellowship of lunacy.

Still, and all, what are we to make of these last letters?

What are we to make of people who feel triumphant, vindicated when a tragedy befalls a prime minister and an entire country?

What are we to make of the fact that Jews the world over are actually, openly, proudly praying for the death of a fellow Jew, and, in fact, the prime minister of the Jewish state?

What manner of response should counter the new Voodoo Jew?

Sharon knew. That's what makes the Voodoo Jews so crazy with rage. Sharon knew what the Voodoo Jews could not: that the vast majority of Israelis were only too happy to give Gaza back to the Philistines, or to their descendants, and the sooner the better.

To the Voodoo Jews who wish Ariel Sharon ill, I have only this message:

We are your curse. You're stuck with us. You may well be smarter than we, more knowledgeable than we, but that only makes the curse more potent.

There are more of us than you, galling as that may be. We are the majority, the Radical Center, the people who protected you, year after year, going to reserve duty, keeping Jabalya and Nablus from slaughtering the settlers in their midst, resisting the calls of the militant left to refuse orders to protect you.

We are your curse. You're stuck with us. We are the Jewish People. We are your future. We lack your monopoly on the truth. But we have a faith that does not rest on infallibility. We believe in common decency. We believe in each other.

We do not believe in the eternal sanctity of colored lines on maps. We don't believe that a Green Line means that all territory on the other side nust be granted to Palestinians just because they say so and put a gun to our heads. We don't believe that all territory on the other side must be denied them because it has been decided that God said so.

We are your curse. We are the Radical Center. We love this country. During the disengagement, we resisted your calls to buck the army as if that were patriotism.

More bad news: By and large, we believe in God, in the power of prayer, in the ability of Jews to care for each other, and - unlike the militant left and right - respect each other and not simply sniff and look down on
those who have the temerity to disagree with us.

We love this country. We are the Radical Center.

Get used to it.