Mishmeres HaSholom: Ask the Rav

Q: For the current school year, we decided to change our son to a different cheder, due to the unfavorable influence of certain classmates: children who used street language or saw videos at home, etc.

One of the other parents from the class, who heard about the move, asked us what the reasons were for our decision. He wants to know the names of the children who, in our opinion, exert a negative influence, because he wants to keep his son away from them. What and how are we allowed to answer?

A: In this question, we are missing a number of important details: (a) How did the questioners know about the chinuch problems in the class? Did they hear it from their son or from others? Was it a one-time incident or an ongoing situation? (b) Did the parents ask the principal of the cheder to deal with the matter, i.e., remove the problem students from the cheder and find them a different school that suits them? (c) If they did speak to the principal, was their complaint regarded seriously, or were they disregarded?

These details and more are very important to take into account before vilifying an entire class or school. Experience shows that when parents change a child to a different school without giving a valid reason and pretext for this step, and, on the contrary, they lead people to understand that they were impelled by a bad influence in the class, this can become public knowledge and cause tremendous damage to the entire cheder. Therefore, each step must be taken properly, with forethought and caution, and they should certainly avoid speaking without a valid heter.

In practice, it would seem that if they did thoroughly verify that there are problem children in the class, as mentioned above, and they also spoke to the principal, and since then, enough time elapsed and still, nothing changed — then they did the right thing by transferring their son. It was also good that they did so in a way that would lead other parents to open their eyes and take notice, and they are allowed to answer those who ask who the problem children are.

But if they did not do thorough research or did not speak to the principal, etc., it is prohibited to slander the class or the cheder. The parents are allowed to decide (for justified reason) that they are unable to resolve the problems via the administration, and they are permitted to take out their son, but they must do so cleverly, so that it will not vilify the cheder, such as by finding a reasonable explanation for the move — the distance, and suchlike.

In the event that they did not speak to the principal, and nevertheless the word went out that they took out their son because of chinuch problems in the class, if they are asked who the problem children are, it is not proper for them to deny that a chinuch problem is involved, but neither should they confirm that this is the case, and they certainly shouldn’t mention names.

Therefore, the best thing is to answer: “I don’t have clear information and I can’t speak about this topic.”

The questions and answers above were taken from the Mishmeres Hasholom pamphlet in Israel. For details and inquiries please e-mail us at office@hasholom.org or call 972-2 5379160.

The views expressed are of the individual author. Readers are encouraged to consult their own posek for guidance.

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