Thursday, May 03, 2007

RCA Seeks to Combat Abuse of Children

From the RCA:

RCA Seeks to Combat Abuse of Children by Applying Public School Standards to Nonpublic Schools

May 1, 2007 -- Whereas, we, the Rabbinical Council of America, are deeply committed to the health, safety and security of all Jewish children attending yeshivas and Hebrew day schools, which includes their right to be free of any physical, emotional or sexual abuse or violence; and,

Whereas, we embrace the mitzvah of Lo ta'amod al dam ra'echa, (Do not stand upon the blood of your brother, Lev. 19:16), and we acknowledge the principle, BeHezaika DeRabim, Chaishinan Tfei (when there is an issue that affects the masses, we are vigilant), and how much more so does this principle apply when the health, safety and welfare of school children are affected; and,

Whereas, we acknowledge the devastating affect that even a single act of physical, emotional or sexual abuse can have upon a child, when inflicted by an adult authority figure, and such abuse can have long term serious physical and mental health consequences; and,

Whereas, we note that Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, of blessed memory, writes in "Halachic Man", that his grandfather, Rav Chaim Soloveitchik of Brisk, of blessed memory, was once asked what the function of a rabbi is, and he replied: “to address the grievances of those who are abandoned and alone, to protect the dignity of the poor, and to save the oppressed from the hands of his oppressor”; and,

Whereas, we acknowledge the legal principle of in loco parentis, which provides that during the school day, the yeshiva and day school stand in the shoes of the parents, and owe the children the high degree of care in health, safety and welfare that parents owe their children; and,

Whereas, we acknowledge the legal principle of parens patrae, whereby the government always has a legitimate interest in the health, safety, and welfare of its children-citizens, regardless of whether they attend public or nonpublic schools, and this interest is reflected in numerous statutes and judicial opinions; and,

Whereas, we take note of the U.S. Congress-mandated report prepared by the U.S. Department of Education, "Educator Sexual Misconduct" (June 2004), which documents the extent of the problem, and at section 12 strongly recommends for all schools employee background checks, registries of abusive school employees, standardized abuse prevention policies, and other prophylactic measures

Now, therefore, it is resolved that

We reiterate support for our 2005 convention resolution, Criminal Background Checks for Workers with Youth; and

We generally support the enactment of decent and humane laws that seek to secure and enhance the health, safety and welfare of nonpublic school children; and

We support the application to the nonpublic schools of the health and safety laws currently applicable to public schools, including
mandatory employee fingerprinting and halachically or legally appropriate background checks;
mandatory written school plans and polices intended to safeguard the life, health, and safety of children, and to prevent physical, emotional and sexual abuse, including appropriate reporting guidelines;
mandatory employee registration and disciplinary hearings;
mandatory emergency health care, including nursing, modern first aid, and modern medical devices, including, defibrillators; and
We call upon members of the RCA to encourage awareness of these issues with their constituencies so as to facilitate detection of abuse in our community.

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