School Leaders Grilled on Antisemitism Response in Congress Hearing

Leaders from some of the biggest school districts in the country talked to Congress about what they’re doing to stop antisemitism in K-12 schools. But some lawmakers weren’t sure if they were doing enough.

The school officials from New York City, Berkeley, California, and Montgomery County, Maryland, said they’ve been trying to stop antisemitic harassment, graffiti, and bullying. But some lawmakers wanted to know why no students had been kicked out of school or why no teachers had been fired.

One school in Queens had a problem with antisemitism. The principal lost his job in November because of a riot in the school and a teacher being threatened. The chancellor of New York City Public Schools said that the principal was taken out of the school for not being a good leader, but he wasn’t actually fired, just moved to a different job.

Some lawmakers at the hearing said they were worried because they heard about lots of antisemitic things happening at K-12 schools, like students saying bad things about Jewish people and teachers being biased against Israel.

The chancellor from New York said they’ve suspended 30 students and punished 12 teachers and a principal for being antisemitic. They’ve also brought in the police when they needed to and taught all of the principals how to handle things better.

One lawmaker wasn’t happy with what the chancellor said. She thought that the school should have been tougher about punishing people for being antisemitic.

The president of the Montgomery County Board of Education said that they’ve punished teachers for being hateful. But another lawmaker asked if the district had fired anyone for antisemitism, and the president said no.

The superintendent of the Berkeley Unified School District said there have been nine reports of antisemitic things happening since October 7th. But she said that antisemitism isn’t something that happens a lot in Berkeley schools.

The day before the hearing, the Department of Education started looking into complaints about antisemitism in the Berkeley schools. Some people said that teachers had been letting students be mean to Jewish and Israeli students.

The superintendent of the Berkeley schools wouldn’t say if any teachers had been fired, but she said that everyone makes mistakes, even the teachers, and they don’t ignore it when it happens.

Before the hearing, a group called Parents Defending Education held a press conference. They talked about how antisemitism is getting worse in public schools. One parent said that she’s been treated badly for talking about antisemitism at her son’s school. She said the school only puts up posters that say bad things about Israel, and that’s scary for Jewish students.

Written by Staff Reports

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