Thursday, October 28, 2010

Beis Yaakov Expells 9 Girls for "non-kosher" cellphones

Nine students from the Beis Yaakov Yerushalayim (BJJ) Jerusalem High School were expelled because they own "non-kosher" cell phones.

mynet, the regional ynet website reported as follows (roughly translated by Jameel).

The story began in the twelfth grade class this week, when a student suddenly jumped up excitedly and announced that her friend got engaged.

Her teacher realized that she had received the happy information via a text message sent to her cell phone, and immediately called for the school principal.

The principal demanded that the girl hand over the phone.

Ultra-Orthodox rabbis have forbidden the use of "non-kosher" cell phones, which allow SMS text messaging. Since the prohibition is considered very serious, the student was expelled from school.

Yet the principal didn't stop there. He went through the phone's directory to see what other girls in the class had "non-kosher" cellphones. Apparently, Kosher cellphones have a similar prefix, so it was easy to spot the "non-kosher" ones.

The principal's detective work resulted in 8 other girls from the class being called in to be reprimanded for using non-kosher phones, and then they were all expelled as well.

"Many girls at the seminar are stressed out because they have a phone that is not kosher and fear being caught," said one student.

"There are those who are now trying to get a kosher phone, so they can show that to the principal, if caught. Since we're dealing with 12th grade, no one wants to get thrown out of school 6 months before they starts going out on shidduch dates", another student said.

It should be emphasized that this is not the only institution that treats the subject seriously.

In some Ultra Orthodox institutions, even the parents aren't allowed to own non-kosher cellphones.

Hat-tip to Faith for the above poster...

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NormanF said...

What's the difference between a kosher and a non-kosher cell phone?

Clue in me, as you haven't explained it.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Ultra-Orthodox rabbis have forbidden the use of "non-kosher" cell phones, which allow SMS text messaging. Since the prohibition is considered a very serious student, the student was expelled from school.

"Kosher phones" only allow "phone calls"

The non-Kosher ones range from having SMS text capability, to Internet access and GPS.

Leah Goodman said...

Jameel - oh no! GPS! Those girls might use that to find all kinds of unsavory places...

And texting... who knows... it might lead to mixed dancing!

(though I do understand the desire to block internet on cell phones for anyone whose judgment might be called into question..and teens aren't always the most level-headed)

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Leah: We block internet access on our kids' cellphones. We have no problem with SMS texting (except for our oldest son, who manages to send world record amounts of SMS).

I dont understand why SMS is assur, but the phone conversation part isn't.

Rafi G. said...

a rule is a rule and the kids broke it. I hate that they try to control everybody in the community with these rules, and the kosher phone is a stupid rule on society. However in the school the rules must be kept. if they threw the girls out because the parents had non-kosher cllphones, that would be bad. It doesnt upset me so much that the girls were thrown out, as they should have followed the rules in the school, no matter how stupid you think the rule is.

my kids go to haredi schools, and I always tell them that as long as they are students in the school, they have to follow the rules of the school.

throwing otu for breaking a rule is pretty harsh,but maybe these kdis had already been warned previously, or maybe they had other infractions. if all they did was get caught this once, then expulsion seems like too harsh of a punishment.

Leah Goodman said...

You do have a point, Rafi. When a whole group of kids were suspended for a day for not being at Shacharit in my high school, their parents, many of whom weren't that religious, basically said "well, you know it's a requirement to go, why didn't you go?"

On the other hand, the only contraband-related expulsion I saw in my high school was something a tad greener than a cell phone...
Something like a cell phone should be confiscated, and if they're that concerned, it should be held until the parents come to retrieve it - and get read the riot act.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Rafi: I think its very harsh that the Principal went on a search and destroy mission by going through the girl's cellphone directory to find other girls with treif phones.

A rule is a rule, but that's an invasion of privacy.

In fact, the Principal's behaviour is probably assur. He has no right to go through the cellphone's directory -- even though it's confiscated, and probably falls under takanat rabbeinu Gershon's "dont read other people's mail".

Just because he thought he was being a tzaddik for finding other girls with treif phones -- he wasn't fulfilling a mitzva by going through her phone, rather he was trying to fulfill a school rule.

Gil Student said...

Most schools in my neighborhood, even those that aren't too Charedi, are very strict about cellphone use IN SCHOOL. I can't argue with that. Expulsion is harsh but I fully support suspending a student who is texting during class.

Rafi G. said...

principal might have violated their privacy, but that doesnt change the issue. expulsion is harsh, unless there are factors we arent aware of, but they deserved to be punished.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Gil: What about searching through the phone directory to expel others girls -- who might not even bring their "treif" phones to school? I have no problem with serious actions against using a cellphone in class, but this went far beyond that.

Rafi: Owning a "treif" phone, which doesn't enter school, and its only discovered via an invasion of privacy seems to me to be a serious in the expulsion of 8 other girls.

Cosmic X said...

I have my reservations as to the accuracy of the story as the name of the Beis Yaakov seminary is not mentioned. There are quite a few: Chadash, Yashan, Snif, Ma'alot, just to name a few.

If it happened it was definitely wrong even to take the phone, and all the more so to search the directory. They certainly had the right to expel the girl as "non-kosher" phones are a big no-no.

Mrs. S. said...

@Leah - "it might lead to mixed dancing" - LOL! :-)

IMHO, going through the phone directory is very, very problematic, on many levels.

However, I don't think that the girls can complain about the punishment itself... as long as the school takanon (or whatever they call it) specifically says that the punishment for owning (!!) a so-called non-kosher phone is confiscation of the phone and expulsion. After all, they were duly warned.

However, if the consequences were never explicitly spelled out and/or if the girls were led to believe that they simply weren't allowed to bring such a phone to school (but no ever said anything about having such a phone at home), then the punishment is overly harsh and unjust.

Anonymous said...

The main reason the "unkosher" phones are banned, aside from the internet access, is SMS. This is mainly because of the distraction it is to yeshiva students and seminary girls, and the temptation to play with it during school. It causes a lot of bittul Torah. I'm pretty sure that's where the original idea started, in the yeshiva world.
But hey, it's more fun to mock people and criticize them and get ourselves all worked up and hateful for no reason.

Yerachmiel Lopin said...

What a vapid culture of control. Yes, schools can make rules. But rules say as much about the rule makers as the violators.

I have no trouble with restrictions on the use of electronics in schools. I happily send my child to a camp that bans them all summer.

However, this was a ban on the kids using them out of school. Texting is just writing. Can we imagine an earlier generation banning kids from writing letters. God forbid a teenager should get a letter telling her that her friend formed a shidduch!

Why the paranoia and extremely controlling approach to texting.

And yes, texting is writing and I would be interested to see if the pricipal sought or was depending on a heter that said he was not violating the ruling of rabbeinu Gershon on reading letters.

R' Shlomo said...

To the Tzadik Anonymous from 6:09 PM:

The main reason the "unkosher" phones are banned, aside from the internet access, is SMS. This is mainly because of the distraction it is to yeshiva students and seminary girls, and the temptation to play with it during school. It causes a lot of bittul Torah. I'm pretty sure that's where the original idea started, in the yeshiva world.

Right, and the "phone" itself isn't a distraction. How come there are Kosher phoned with GAMES on them -- they aren't a distraction? Your uber-tzidkus is pathetic.

But hey, it's more fun to mock people and criticize them and get ourselves all worked up and hateful for no reason.

Actually, all this post does is translate an article. Seems to me you're the one getting worked up and hateful.

Marion said...

Dumb question...are the school rules about "treif" cell phones binding on the parents? Because I don't know ANY cell phone service provider that will enter into a contract with a minor...if we're talking high school girls then the chances of the phone being "hers" vs. her parents' is slim to none.

(And yes, kosher phones have easy to ID numbers. For Orange, they are all 0548.)

Anonymous said...

let me clarify the issue; the harshness of any punishment depends on how terrible the breaking of the rule is considered. In these schools, a cell with SMS is literally unacceptable; the reason being, its a lot easier for conversations to go dirty and nasty via text rather than phone conversation, (at least with someone you never had a flirt), considering the temptations teenagers have to flirt has the schools rule that owning such a phone-especially when its against school rules(which only adds to the severity of the actual having it) ground for expulsion.

ProfK said...

I fail to see where the problem is here, unless the school NEVER told the girls that they may not text during school hours or bring their phones to school. If the school has the no texting rule then the girls clearly broke it. It could be that this was not the first time, but that is almost irrelevant. If you know what the rule is and you break it anyway then be prepared to suffer the consequences.

Re the privacy issue, at least here in the States email, despite its being a type of electronic "letter," is not covered in the same way as mailed letters are as regards the issue of privacy. I personally hold that the principal's scrolling through the phone was not an action I would want to see by a principal, but how it might be held at law could be something else entirely.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Le me clarify something here.

The 8 girls who were "discovered" by their principal snooping through the 1rst girl's phone's directory -- were NOT caught texting in school, nor even carrying their phone in school.

We don't even know the last time they used these phones, if at all.

They were simply expelled because the principal found their names associated with non-kosher phones, in a phone directory of a non-kosher phone.

I think it's a gross invasion of privacy to expell the 8 additional girls. Yes, a rule is a rule, but if the rule is inherently invasive, it is unacceptable.

For example, according to Israeli law, you cannot force someone to take a polygraph test. Yet, if one signs an agreement with a company that he voluntarily agrees to be tested by polygraph, and then the worker decides against it, the company, cannot force him to take the test, nor can they fire the employee based on non-compliance.

From a halachik standpoint, I'm very doutbful if the principal is allowed to have done what he did.

For example, I assume that BJJ requires its students to keep kashrut. Lets say the principal finds the diary of a student, and it says she only waited 5 hours between meat and milk, instead of her family minhag of keeping 6 hours.

Would that also be grounds for expulsion?

Shira said...

There are lots of theories why SMS is also on the list of non-kosher features.

The most convincing I've heard is that you can get an SMS from a stranger, including graphics.

The most cynical I've heard is that allowing SMS would be much cheaper so the cell phone companies wouldn't make as much money on those bargain-basement kosher phone rates.

From a chinuch standpoint it is disappointing that the situational issue - texting in the middle of class - wasn't highlighted whatsoever. Teachers aren't allowed to have their cell phones on during class, and certainly not for up-to-date simcha news. When a school makes everything into a "tznius" issue, it reduces the likelihood of cultivating good honest mentschlichkeit.

In my girls' school silly bands were recently banned because "they're too colorful to be appropriate dress for a bat yisrael." The real issue is they're a disruptive fad, and waving the tznius flag misses the chance to send a message that fads in and of themselves aren't always welcome. (I believe the local anglo-heavy DL school just forbid them outright.)

May All the heroes of the Irgun be blessed. said...

"a rule is a rule and the kids broke it. I hate that they try to control everybody in the community with these rules, and the kosher phone is a stupid rule on society. However in the school the rules must be kept. "
Says "Rafi."

You know, where I went to school, when kids broke the rules, they were reprimanded, given detention, scolded by the principal, parents notified, etc. They were not THROWN OUT!

Only the most serious offenses such as "packing heat" (that means bringing a gun to school) or getting caught with hard drugs or making a violent threat would lead to being expelled from school. There are other forms of discipline besides throwing a kid to the street for every perceived offense.

What a dereliction of duty and heartless authoritarian lack of responsibility on the part of school officials like the ones in this story. They have abandoned our youth and their responsibility to our youths. I'm embarrassed that they are Jews.

Anonymous said...

This is not exactly what happened. My daughter is in the class.
It's the yashan on yirmiyahu street.
No one was expelled.
Two girls were sent home for 3 days, and let back in on probation.

A little harsh for the crime but an added thing was the disruption in the classroom.
As for why text is a problem, obviously it's not as bad as Internet, but it definitely provides a dimension of private communication that for chareidi parents is unwanted.
Most boy-girl relationships either get off the ground or are significantly advanced thru texting.
It allows for things to be said in an ambiguous way and non-stalkerish while keeping the relationship going.
And it's rarely necessary, unlike calling ability, which can be indispensable.

Shira said...

Those schools obviously think that the bechira-point for their charges is at a much higher level....

Though I think you're right we lose something when the basics (eschewing felonies in your example) become such an assumption that they are no longer a building block in our education - not a source of pride, not a source for distant empathy and dealing with emotions, etc.

May All the heroes of the Irgun be blessed. said...

And I think the commenter who mentioned confiscating the device in question is right on target. But the culture of extremism is thriving among our people and that is reflected not only in stories like this but in the fact that people generally seem to agree with these methods (several comments here try to justify them).

Michael BarDaniel said...

Had that been his daughter she wouldn't have been expelled. To treat another child differently is a clear violation of the mitzva ve'ahavta lere'acha kamocha. Who cares about DeOrayta when you can keep churning out chumras.

Leah Goodman said...

Suspension seems a bit heavy-handed, but is within range. I hope this really is over-stated.

I went to seven different schools (some Jewish, some not, different halachic levels among the schools). Bringing "contraband" to school leads to confiscation. (Btw, I'm told normal practice in most schools - including public schools in the US- is that if you're caught with a cellphone on in class, texting or otherwise, you lose the phone at least until the end of class. Depending upon the school, you can lose it until the end of the day, or until your parents come to claim it.

I have no problem with this practice as long as its stated up front.

My stepson's school (Chabad) states that electronic devices brought to school will be kept until the end of the year. Sounds harsh, but it's clearly stated.

Leah Goodman said...

Mrs. S. - thanks for appreciating my warped sense of humor.

Anonymous said...

The greater orthodox world is but a very small part of a very small people. The marriage prospects of these young ladies have been tarnished. They may have to settle for a young man who does not wear a hat during the week. All kidding aside, about 50 years I was expelled from a yeshiva on Saddle River Rd for a radio that was discovered in my possession. Look where I am now....getting ready for kiddush...hopefully I'll be there on time for AIN KELOIYHAINU

May All the heroes of the Irgun be blessed. said...

"Look where I am now."

None of us can do that because you are posting under "anonymous" and none of us have any idea who you are.

Unknown said...

3 questions:

1) Were they really expelled or only suspended? (Hint: Don't believe everything they print on mynet)

2) Why did you print an unrelated picture of 3 "grieving" girls (wearing winter clothes during the hottest fall on record)?

3) why are you a party to yellow journalism?

Jameel @ The Muqata said...


0. I translated the article from the Hebrew without any editorial change.

1. The word used in Hebrew was expulsion, not suspension. I personally don't know if it was "only" suspension.

2. I found the photo a funny contrast, so I posted it.

3. As for "yellow journalism", the pro-chareidi webside (BChadrei Chareidim) ran the exact story as well, so I figure if its being run by mynet and a Chareidi website, there must be some truth to it.

I never claimed to exclusively know the facts -- I translated a story into English and posted it.

Unknown said...

To Jameel -

I know that you translated from the Hebrew and I know that "sulku" means expelled. My feeling is that since this is a secular paper that really doesn't know what's flying,they are liable to write expelled even if in truth they were only suspended.

I have a daughter in Moreshet Bais Yaakov and one in Bais Yaalov Alei Beer (they are all called Bais Yaakov) and the rule is: caught with a cell phone is automatic suspension. (If you are caught twice, there can be bigger trouble). This happens all the time in just about every school once in a while. And it's more than likely that this is what happened here. There is no corroboration from any other source that any girls were actually expelled (not suspended) from any school.

My "accusation" of yellow journalism is based on the practice of placing an unrelated and overstated photograph next to an article to give an exaggerated impression. didn't do that. You did. It is not the problem of running the story stam.

You should know better than to take mynet reports on what goes on in the chareidi world literally. They don't even identify the school (they are all called Bais Yaakov) so there is no way to confirm their story.

To say "I'm just translating it." is a cheap excuse.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Harry -

I personally have friends, whose daughters learn at Beis Yaakov schools in Jerusalem. They own 2 cellphones -- the one they take to school which is "kosher" and the treif one they keep at home.

My friends say it is a serious problem that their daughters need to keep 2 phones.

For a principal to go through the phone book to find treif numbers, in my opinion is an invasion of privacy.

Now, I did translate the article exactly as it said. If the girls were indeed suspended, I'd have no problem editing the post to reflect that, but I think it's irrelevant.

The photo which (I think) makes a point that its serious for girls to be expelled (or even suspended) for simply owning a "trief" phone, which isn't even on school property, isn't yellow or a cheap excuse. Its stark reality.

What exactly is your problem with this article? That they were suspended instead of expelled (assuming that's true). Do you justify that, and the principal going through the phone book of a phone looking for other "trief" phones, in order to bust their owners?

Or is that also simple anti-chareidi reporting from mynet as well?

Lastly - what exactly is wrong with the picture that offends you so much? Do you think the girls who were suspended/expelled (or whatever) aren't worried and upset?

From people *I* know, the treif phone syndrome is a HUGE worry for girls in chareidi high schools.

Are you denying that?

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