Children’s safety comes first: Israeli court defends right of school to bar unvaccinated, untested staff

In a landmark precedent, an Israeli court has rejected a bid by a teacher’s aide who was looking to overturn a local council’s decision to bar her from work over her unwillingness to be vaccinated or tested for Covid-19.

When one person’s right to privacy and autonomy is placed on the scales opposite the well-being of students, teachers and parents, the balance “tips clearly” in favor of the latter, a Tel Aviv Labor Court judge ruled on Sunday.

The court supported the decision by the local council in the town of Tzur Yigal in central Israel, which demanded all teaching staff be vaccinated for the coronavirus or take regular tests in order to be able to work during the pandemic.

A teacher’s assistant at a local school, Sigal Avishai, who appealed for the measure to be overturned, will not be returning to work or receiving any payment, it said.

The judge acknowledged that Covid-19 tests were an invasive and unpleasant procedure. However, she insisted that the harm from testing or the need for Avishai to disclose her personal medical information was “relatively low.”

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The court also said that regular testing represents a much lesser infringement on constitutional freedoms than the implementation of mandatory vaccination at workplaces.

The precedent can now be used by local authorities in other Israeli cities and towns to implement similar bans on unvaccinated or untested school staff.

However, the Labor Court ruling contradicted the stance of Israel’s deputy attorney general, Raz Nizri, who wrote to the local authorities last month that the existing legislation didn’t allow them to “take the law into their hands” and introduce such restrictions on educational institutions.

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Israel has been gradually reopening its schools since February, amid a large-scale vaccination campaign and a drop in the number of coronavirus cases. In accordance with the country’s ‘Traffic Light’ program, students were initially allowed to return to class in the ‘green’ and ‘yellow’ areas with low levels of infections, but earlier this week, school also resumed in ‘orange’ towns.

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