Brooklyn, NY – More than a month after a storm of allegations arose regarding possible improprieties taking place at a prominent girls’ school in Borough Park, new policies are will be implemented for the upcoming school year in order to ensure greater student safety.
As previously reported on VIN News, Assemblyman Dov Hikind announced that he had been contacted by multiple parents whose daughters attend the Bais Sarah School and its associated Camp Chayei Sura, charging that an employee had a history of harassing and touching girls and that the administration did nothing to address those concerns.
After a May 15th meeting between community activists, Hikind and Rabbi Nuchem Klein, owner and principal of the school, Bais Sarah sent out a letter on June 11th to its parent body announcing that new policies would be instituted to alleviate parental concerns and would provide greater protection for students which would include mandatory training sessions on abuse for all faculty members. Bais Sarah also agreed to bring in an unnamed third party expert to discuss any potential issues.
Brooklyn businessman Shuli Halpert who is involved in locating school placements for students was one of those who was present at the meeting. Halpert said that the gathering was extremely productive.
“Every mossad, boys and girls, should have someone that students, faculty members or parents could go to confidentially if they feel that someone inappropriate has taken place,” Halpert told VIN News. “Nobody wants to blow this out of proportion but on the other hand, things like this have been pushed under the rug for too long.”
Halpert said that Rabbi Klein invited him to tour Bais Sarah.
“It is a beautiful school that is running beautifully and this will only make it run better,” said Halpert.
Rabbi Klein did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter.
Hikind said that he welcomed the new policies, which he described as a solid step in the right direction, one that he hopes that other schools will emulate. The assemblyman also called on Agudath Israel of America to support an initiative that would have other institutions taking similar action.
In a statement emailed to VIN News, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel America, said that he was pleased to hear that protocols approved by Torah leaders were being put in place to protect children from predators throughout the year.
“Agudath Israel has long promoted the abuse-related behavioral standards developed by Torah Umesorah for implementation in yeshivos and day schools, and the guidelines we developed for implementation in our camps and youth programs,” said Rabbi Zwiebel. “We look forward to working with Torah Umesorah to study the details of the protocols developed for use in Bais Sarah with an eye toward possible application on a broader scale in the yeshiva community.”
Zev Dunner, program director of Torah Umesorah’s Project Lishmor which deals with safety and abuse prevention, said that concrete change has been taking place. According to Dunner, Project Lishmor has worked extensively with Amudim and Magen Yeladim International to create educational programming for schools, with organizations including Mageinu, Relief and Sephardic Bikur Cholim also making significant contributions to the fight against abuse.
Project Lishmor makes its customizable code of conduct available to all educational institutions, presenting its programming at 25 Lakewood schools over the past year, reported Dunner.
“We trained over 10,000 kids in the last six months and we look forward to unrolling the program in Brooklyn in the fall,” said Dunner.
Programs have also been tailored to meet the very specific needs of Chasidic yeshivos and have already been implemented in several boys’ schools. Girls’ schools are expected to be added to the list of Chasidic institutions adopting the programming shortly.
While incidents of abuse have long been swept under the rug, Dunner said that the tide is turning in a positive direction.
“Rabbeim, schools and parents are all getting more and more on board with the need to do this,” explained Dunner. “Our duty here is to ensure the safety of every child at all times.”