Orthodox school in Antwerp says employee wrong to instruct teachers to not teach evolution, reproduction


(JTA) — A haredi Orthodox school for girls in Antwerp distanced itself from a document handed out by an employee of the school instructing other teachers not to speak with pupils about sex and evolution.

The Gazet van Antwerpen daily reported on the document titled “general instructions” yesterday, prompting the Flemish education minister, Hilde Crevits, to launch an investigation into the Benoth Jerusalem school, which is a high school.

The Flemish Region, whose capital in Antwerp, is one of three states comprising the federal country of Belgium. Benoth Jerusalem is a public school, funded by the Flemish education ministry. In addition to the curriculum required by the state, which includes teaching reproduction, evolution and history, it offers Jewish studies taught by haredi teachers. There is a haredi principal but non-Jewish teachers who are education ministry employees teach the mandatory curriculum subjects.

Under “teaching material,” the document, which appears to be intended for the non-Jewish teachers, reads: “Pupils are not to be talked to about: Sex, reproduction, politics, religion, racism, personal issues.”

In a statement, Benoth Jerusalem said that the document in question is “against everything the school stands for” and is “not an official school document.” An employee of the school did print the document but the employee has been told that the document “clashes with the school’s values,” the statement read.

Benoth Jerusalem in 2012 was flagged as “lacking” in an education ministry inspection for failing to teach evolution and sexual education, a grade that put into question its continuing eligiblity for government subsidies.

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