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Post-attack report shows security slips

A terrorist incident at a Jerusalem school two years ago, in which six pupils and the principal were injured, is singled out as an example of inadequate security procedures at the city's schools in a report on local authorities released last week.

In her 1995 review, Israel's independent government watchdog, Miriam Ben-Porat, asserts that a "not insignificant number" of guards at school gates had failed to meet criteria set by the ministry of education.

The report was issued only a day before Israel's prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, was due to receive the recommendations of a committee chaired by the deputy education minister on the handling of security at schools. The meeting was postponed, and was due to take place earlier this week. One issue under review is whether the education ministry should retain overall responsibility for school security, or whether it should be passed to the police.

The terrorist incident took place at the ORT-Kennedy School in the south of the city in March 1993. Pupils had already subdued the knife-wielding attacker by the time the unarmed security guard arrived at the scene.

But inadequacies in the city's school security arrangements were apparent long before the attack, Ben-Porat's report reveals. In 1991, local authorities took day-to-day charge of hiring security companies to guard schools. In April 1992, some five months into the operation of the new scheme, Ben-Porat's office examined the profiles of 154 guards in Jewish-sector Jerusalem, discovering that more than 50 of them were over the maximum age of 55, and 22 had been guarding their posts without arms, when spot-checked. Local authority visits several months later further revealed that some guards were failing to turn up for work.

In March 1993, prior to the attack, spot checks on 233 educational institutions and 238 guards revealed that 38 guards were unarmed, 29 lacked basic training, and only 29 had gone through refresher courses. Many of them were not at their posts at the time of the visits.

Entries and exits of visitors were not recorded at most schools; in some cases, there was nothing to indicate that searches of perimeter fences had been carried out; and in many instances, there were holes in fences and gates.

A spokesperson for the Jerusalem municipality said that school security had been dealt with more professionally since 1993, and met the education ministry's criteria. Spot checks on nearly all the city's 373 guards last week showed that only 1 per cent were below par. All guards were now armed.

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