Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Preventing Abuse: Yeshivah vs. Public School

I have to go the police department to get fingerprinted in order to volunteer in David's school. I was floored. Yeshivos don't even fingerprint the teachers, and here in public school I have to be fingerprinted!
The plan is to switch David back into yeshiva at some (undetermined) point. I used to say concerning all the unknowns we faced when making the switch to public school that my worst fear is that we'll love it so much we won't want to switch him back as planned. So far I can't say that I "love" public school, but now my worst fear is that I won't want to switch him back since I've seen how dysfunctional yeshivos are even when compared to a public school I don't "love."
The whole fingerprinting issue brought this to the fore for me. It's always bothered me that yeshivos don't fingerprint teachers and, more importantly, don't institute mandatory reporting policies (as in public schools). At one point I did raise the issue with an administrator. Guess how seriously my concern was received.
As much as it bothered me, it had nothing to do with the reason we finally decided to switch David to public school. But now that he's in public school and I look back, I see some of contrasts even more clearly. I'm not talking about educational issues--which the truth is I don't know how to compare because I don't have a good reference point with which to judge--or administrative issues. But even simple safety issues like fingerprinting and mandatory reporting. (Or a little thing like using seat belts on school buses, another issue I wasted my breath on--as if school buses never get into accidents and the occupants injured. Or a nuissance like bullying. David's old school was pretty lax on bullying, but in his public school it is taken seriously.)
So my worst fear is no longer that I will love the public school. Because even if I hate it, I will feel trapped in middle with no good option. I'm not sure how I agreed to begin with to entrust David's safety with people who don't take it seriously, but now that he's no longer there, how can can I put him back in that environment?
(And some of my critics actually believe that I'm the one who is putting my child at risk of physical harm davka because I put him in public school?!)
Postscript: This post is something that's been on my mind for a couple of weeks. I finally wrote it up because of a post today on Hirhurim that references some new books that deal with sexual abuse. One of the authors, who feels very strongly about the issue, notes in a comment on the post that he is pessimistic because there is no mechanism to fix some of the underlying problems. I don't understand how people who acknowledge that community's response to abuse is flawed and at the same time admit little will change, then continue to patronize yeshivos.


Shoshana Z. said...

Wow, I really applaud you for making this post. It wouldn't be popular among many. But I am definitely a parent who has always had these concerns in relation to the frum elementary level (which is our kids' age range right now). I cannot fathom how people would use a school that, were they not religiously observant, they would never consider sending their children to.

tesyaa said...

Shoshana, great comment.

ProfK said...

NY has a law making it mandatory that all school busses have seat belts. What is not mandatory is that all the students actually use those seatbelts. "New York's law allows local school boards to decide if students must use the seat belts." see
(And we elected the officials who wrote this law?!) School bus drivers don't like the seatbelts because it is THEY who need to tell the kids to buckle up and see to it that they are, and many of them are lax in enforcing the law. Any monitors riding the busses are also responsible for seeing that the belts are buckled. In addition, as I understand it, some busses, built before certain dates, are grandfathered out of the requirement while newly built busses must comply.

So, there are lots of people involved in this issue, not just school administrators. There are legislators and school boards and bus companies and bus drivers and bus monitors and then yes, school administrators. Some yeshivas contract with private bus companies to provide their transportation--there you could argue that they should only be contracting with companies that have busses with seatbelts and that they should enforce that the seatbelts be used. The majority of yeshivas get free transport provided through the local boards of education and they have no say in what types of busses are being provided.

I'm not saying that I wouldn't want my children in seatbelts on the school bus, just that there is more to it than yeshiva administrators who don't want to have seatbelts.

Abba's Rantings said...


1) i'm willing to bet that every bus on the roads today has seat belts, particulary those procured from companies that are city contracts. (there is a similar grandfather law with respect to seatbelt, mirrors and other safety devices in cars, but when was the last time you rode in a car that lacked a seatbelt?)

2) "there is more to it than yeshiva administrators who don't want to have seatbelts"

no there isn't more to it. i just don't understand the excuses (not saying they're *your* excuses). my son's public school is proof that it's really not a big deal. no bus pulls away from the curb at dismissal or for a trip untless every kid is belted in.

what exactly distinguishes between yeshivah teachers and bus drivers any different from their public school counterparts that prevents them seatbelting the kids?

3) i looked up the law before i went to speak to the admin about it and was also shocked. especially since in general car seat/booster/belt laws in general are so strict for private vehicles.

Abba's Rantings said...


1) as i mentioned at the end, people really believe that yeshivos are inherently safer than public schools, which are all, even at the pre-school level, dens of incesant, untmitigated and unchecked violence. (of course there are some bad schools out there, but thankfully not my son's school, or for that matter where my wife works).

(of course as a homeschooler this is irrlevant to you because you don't have to worry about safety in yeshivos vs. public school)

2) everyone makes their own cheshbon. we want our kids to be safe and good jews. now we all know kids who grew up to become bad jews, but the truth is most of us don't know kids who've been in bus accidents, molested or otherwise abused, etc. (unfortunately i have to say that i do know of kids who've been targets for bullies.) so if i have to choose between safety and frumkeit (and i don't think most people really consciously make this decision anyway), parents will naturally go with path that will better preserve frumkeit, because these seem more pressing and threatening than safety issues

Abba's Rantings said...


i just get wrap my head around some of these excuses.

yes, there are some problems in the yeshivos that are real conundrums and difficult to tackle. but we're talking about issues here that simply stated are non-issues in public schools. what is so different in the yeshivos that here they suddenly become unsumountable issues?

Abba said...


i just can't get wrap my head around some of these excuses.

yes, there are some problems in the yeshivos that are real conundrums and difficult to tackle. but we're talking about issues here that simply stated are non-issues in public schools. what is so different in the yeshivos that here they suddenly are presented as unsumountable issues?

Shoshana Z. said...

You would be surprised how relevant the endangerment issue is to our family, but not for the same reasons. Many would accuse you of enrolling your child in a “despotic” pit of public education both for the religious and physical deviation that you have made from the general Jewish community. As home-schoolers we have sadly been subject to the similar criticism that we are endangering our children by (gasp!) assuming responsibility for their education and spiritual development. And who are we as parents (!) to think that we are capable of such a thing?!

tesyaa said...

Shoshana, I can only suggest that you go about your homeschooling with the utmost confidence, talk about it as if it's the most natural thing in the world, and tell people straight out that you as parents are most capable of deciding what's best for you and your family. Then walk away.

Shoshana Z. said...

Believe me, that is exactly what I do. I am a seven year veteran by now and no longer feel the sting when it happens. bH I see the results in our kids and our family in general and I wouldn't do it any other way. :)