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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Agudah Takes A Cautious Step Forward

While Wolf and others are rightfully disappointed with the somewhat weak Jewish Press editorial on the subject of abuse, this VIN article about the Agudah's stance on certain new laws is very interesting.
“Our general sense is that we’re much better off when government leaves us alone,” said David Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America for government and public affairs. “But because of the sensitivity of this particular issue, I could see the possibility of our rabbis affirmatively encouraging schools to buy into the system, and even maybe affirmatively encouraging government to impose it on us.”
This is a nice step forward, but it is hard to know if this is merely bluster or an actual policy shift. Certain other comments of Zwiebel are less encouraging.

One regulation under consideration, he related, would institute a “roach motel” principle: Once a school chooses to opt in, it will not be allowed to opt out.

“I’m troubled by that,” he said. “It doesn’t sound like wise public policy.”

Another proposed rule would mandate that a school opting into the system must require every employee to be fingerprinted, without exception.

“I don’t understand that part of it,” he said. “It would allow us no discretion to [exempt], say, certain veterans about whom there have never been any questions from a criminal background check.”

Still, he said, “I’m not necessarily implying those two rules would push us away. I’d like to know exactly what the details are.”

It is unclear why any school would wish to "opt out", presuming the rules and standards were fair. Offhand, there seems to be nothing in the realm of abuse or reports to government (fingerprints of teachers, etc.) that would somehow be a specific issue that schools would wish to avoid presuming everything is on the up-and-up. Granted he is merely asking for details of this, but it seems reasonable.

The other issue he cites is far more troubling to hear. What exactly would be gained by "exempting" certain veterans? Why should any Rebbe or teacher - no matter how long they have been teaching - be excluded from this fingerprinting process? What reasoning would there be to do so - what discomfort is there? Schools often make across the board ("lo plug") rules about issues that are important, even understanding that the rule is not necessarily necessary for all; the same should be applied to this issue as well.

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