Mishmeres HaSholom: Ask the Rav

Q: As a rebbi in a cheder, I want to ask if it is permissible for teachers to discuss among themselves students’ progress, which sometimes includes negativity. The goal is to try to obtain advice or guidance for dealing with the child and the success of his chinuch.

A: Preface: There is generally no prohibition of lashon hara when discussing children and their negative behaviors, as long as the issues are within normal range for children. This would include a child who fights with others, one who breaks objects, doesn’t listen, daydreams, etc. — problems often seen among children, which generally change when they mature.

Of course, there is no mitzvah to speak about children without reason. But if necessary, it is permissible, even without adhering to the conditions from the Chofetz Chaim for constructive purpose.

If, however, the child’s issue is unusual and not prevalent among children, as in “This child cannot read/recognize letters or nekudos and needs professional help,” or “The child should be taking Ritalin because he is hyperactive,” or “This child has a heart defect, R”l,” etc., then there is no dispensation to speak even when necessary, only if there is clear purpose as delineated in the Chofetz Chaim’s conditions.

As for the question at hand: If teachers discuss among themselves standard students’ issues and problems, they may talk and get advice even if they do not adhere to the conditions for lashon hara for a constructive purpose. If, however, it is an unusual case, as mentioned, then there is no heter to simply discuss the matter, even when there is a possibility that there may be purpose in the discussion — only if one is scrupulous about adhering to all the conditions for lashon hara l’to’eles. Specifically, this means not to speak among teachers freely in public, and only to discuss these situations with an individual who can understand the problem and help work out a solution.

It must be noted that even with regard to regular children with standard problems, where it is permissible to speak for a constructive purpose, one must be careful not to be dragged into lashon hara about the parents or educators who are not adept at handling the child. Such talk constitutes actual lashon hara about adults. Hachacham einav b’rosho — the wise one thinks ahead.

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 opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hamodia.