Parents Defending Education submitted a public records request to Newton Public Schools seeking emails from board members and the superintendent as well as district statements regarding the Hamas terrorist attack against Israel. On October 10, a fourth grade teacher at Countryside Elementary School sent an email to Superintendent Anna Nolin about giving “antisemitism education to Newton staff.” The teacher stated:
The rise in antisemitic incidents in schools and the subsequent missteps in conversations with students and families about them made it clear that our faculty is ill-equipped to support our Newton core values. In the past few days, Jewish and Israeli parents and teachers have contacted administrators about communication that was sent to families about the attack on Israel that they felt was victim-blaming.
This teacher then added:
When we met you told me that for your first year as superintendent you would not be putting in place new PD. I am asking that you please reconsider. The group that I developed the antisemitism PD with needs only the length of time of a staff meeting to give staff a better understanding of how they may be unwittingly perpetuating antisemitism and how they can support students and families.
The superintendent then responded that she has faced “pushback” against providing antisemitism training to district staff: “In the weeks prior to this one, given the concern of Jews from community about antisemitism, I have been trying to negotiate mandatory Pd For certain staff. There has been pushback on this.”
The superintendent appeared to be speaking with a representative of an organization called “Facing History” regarding possible antisemitism training for staff in another email exchange. In an email later on October 10, the organization’s representative explained to the superintendent that the cost for “training your middle and high school humanities teachers in Contemporary Antisemitism” would be about $30,000 to $40,000 just for one full day with 100 participants.