After the Hamas terrorist attacks against Israel, New York City Department of Education’s chancellor, David Banks, sent an email to district staff stating: “I unequivocally condemn these horrific acts of violence, and I want to offer my deepest condolences and steadfast support to those in our New York City Public Schools (NYCPS) community impacted by the killings and kidnappings.” In response to the chancellor’s message, the Movement of Rank and File Educators caucus of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) union published a statement against the chancellor’s support of Israel:
We are also saddened by the response, or lack thereof, of both the Adams’ administration and the UFT. Chancellor Banks’s statement last Tuesday solely centering the needs of Israeli families, and UFT President Mulgrew’s dismissal of Queens Borough Rep Amy Arundell for speaking in support of Palestine are but two examples of the erasure of our Palestinian students, staff, and families.
The union’s caucus also included resources to teachers from Teach Palestine and Rethinking Schools. Both organizations support anti-Israel causes and offer curricular resources to help teachers push anti-Israel views to children in classrooms. The union’s caucus also announced that it was cosponsoring a protest on October 20, 2023, with several partner organizations, including the Democratic Socialists of America.
On October 25, 2023, the New York Post reported that about 20 students from Brooklyn’s Urban Assembly Institute of Math and Science for Young Women of New York City Public Schools skipped class with a teacher to participate in an anti-Israel protest. The New York Post reported: “Several high school girls from Brooklyn’s Urban Assembly Institute of Math and Science for Young Women brandished unsettling signs reading ‘Please Keep the World Clean’ above an illustration showing the blue Star of David in a garbage can.”
A concerned teacher from New York City Public Schools reached out to Parents Defending Education regarding the situation and what occurred in a Facebook group chat for teachers labeled as “NYC DOE Teachers and Other UFT Members ONLY Chat.” The description of the chat states: “This page started out just for teachers and over the years it has turned into a UFT member group!”
The concerned teacher who reached out to PDE sent an email to the district’s chancellor asking what happened to the teacher who appeared to organize an anti-Israel protest for students:
While I see the student has been addressed, where is the accountability of the teacher? If this was organized by a teacher, held under a teacher’s supervision, during school hours, doesn’t the teacher hold responsibility for teaching the students about acceptable and unacceptable behavior during a protest? Do the teachers not bare responsibility for teaching right vs wrong?
The concerned teacher also included in her email how another teacher in the Facebook group “denies that the poster is antisemitic” and “continued to justify her response.” This teacher explained that she is Jewish and was concerned about antisemitism being openly taught by other teachers in New York City Public Schools:
Who is teaching our children and what are they teaching them?? To say that the children aren’t “familiar with what the Star of David represent” is a greater reason why teachers should not be presenting and/ or allowing posters of this caliber. It is apparent that some teachers believe that posters such as this one, are not antisemitic. Is this what teachers are teaching? I don’t recall seeing this poster in one of the resources sent out by the DOE. How young are these students that are being taught to hate?
This teacher explained that she has not yet received a response to her email.
PDE also received images of the posts from the Facebook group that this concerned teacher was discussing in her email to the chancellor. The original post shared a link to the New York Post article while stating: “This NYC HS Principal [redacted] encouraged students to create antisemitic posters with school supplies and walk out of school to attend a non-sanctioned pro-Hamas rally with zero permission slips.” The author of the post then asked: “What should be the consequences for this principal endangering students and the teaching staff who she requested to chaperone this dangerous event?”
Another teacher who has a profile picture of an “I Stand with Palestine” sign responded claiming that the teacher and students protesting were “responding to genocide.” This same teacher then added: “They are clearly protesting the atrocities committed by Israel against innocent civilians. There is a narrative being pushed here and it is insidious and dangerous.” Several other teachers in the group liked this post. In another post, this teacher continued to attack Israel:
I have been calling on the Jewish community to denounce the murder of children by the Israeli government. As a teacher of children, do you condemn the murder of children by the Israeli government? Or are you more concerned with a simple drawing made by a child who can clearly see and say that murder is wrong?