Rochel is five years old; an intelligent, spirited child. She
was not one of the best in the class but she was not the
worst. She was the only girl in the class from a certain
Some months ago, a group of girls in her class began
tormenting her about being different, taunting her during
recess and at every opportunity. One day, the ringleader kept
teasing her during class, pulling faces and mouthing
Eventually, Rochel lost her temper and, in the middle of the
lesson, got up to hit the girl. The teacher, who had not seen
the teasing, screamed at Rochel. Rochel ran to the board in
rage, scribbled on it, then took the teacher's diary and
scribbled on that. The teacher became furious and told Rochel
that she had to go to the principal. Like the other children
in the school, Rochel was very scared of the principal and in
a panic, she ran out of the class and held the door shut so
that the teacher was unable to go out.
After a few minutes, she went back inside the class and the
teacher grabbed her. Trying to release herself, Rochel
grabbed the teacher's hand and tried to pull it off her, but
in doing so, she hurt it.
Eventually, Rochel calmed down and the teacher reported what
had happened to the principal. The principal called in
Rochel's father and told him that Rochel was being expelled
from the school now and that at the end of the year, he would
be expelling the group of three girls who had been teasing
This incident, whose details have been changed to preserve
anonymity, took place recently. It raises several important
First, what should be the guidelines which justify expelling
a child from school?
Expelling a child from school is a traumatic experience for a
child and can leave permanent scars. Often, other schools in
the area refuse to take a child who has been expelled because
they do not want to take on any problems, because they fear
parents will object and because they fear it will damage the
school's reputation of being a `top' school. The result is
that in many cases, the child is left without a school.
Second, what recourse does a parent have to the decision of
the principal of a school expelling a child? There is no
established "court of appeal" and a principal does not
necessarily feel subordinate to the opinion of a local
The first question was posed to a panel of Gedolei Torah at
the 1997 Annual Torah Umesorah Teachers' Convention.
Their response was that except for very exceptional
circumstances, a school or yeshiva is not allowed to expel a
child. If the school is justified in expelling the child,
then the school itself must help the parents find an
alternative place for the child to attend.
The gedolim explained that the only justifications for
requiring a child to leave a school are either 1) if a child
is totally beyond control and badly influencing and
disrupting others or 2) if a child is so learning-disabled
that the school cannot help him/her and that there is an
alternative institution which is better equipped to do so.
Conditions 1) and 2) include meeting with the parents and
trying to enlist their help and trying whatever is possible
to help the child.
Perhaps readers can help with advice as to how to deal with
the second question.
FEEDBACK on Rabbi Zobin's last article regarding proper
reading. One reader noted a common mistake that borders on
the ridiculous: In Sholom Aleichim it is very popular
to sing "Mimelech Mal-achei Hamelochim" which would
denote that Hashem is the King of angel-kings, rather than
"Malchei Hamelochim", King of kings.