Virtual Innovators Academy principal promoted NYC Educators for Palestine event to staff; email contained language accusing Israel of “occupation” and “genocide”


Parents Defending Education submitted a public records request to New York City Public Schools seeking documents about a principal promoting the organization NYC Educators for Palestine to staff at Virtual Innovators Academy. The district provided PDE with emails from the school’s principal and the form that staff could complete. Virtual Innovators Academy is a public virtual high school based in New York City. NYC Educators for Palestine is an organization that accuses Israel of “genocide” and recently created a petition calling “on the Teachers’ Retirement System of the City of New York to divest from all Israeli securities.” The organization stated: “We refuse to have our retirement savings aid, abet, and profit from the genocide in Palestine.”

NYC Educators for Palestine accuses Israel of “genocide.”

In communications to staff dated January 16, 2024, the principal’s email specifically mentioned “censorship” when promoting a NYC Educators for Palestine event:

On February 3rd from 10AM-12PM Educators for Palestine will be hosting a virtual “curriculum share” geared to K-12 classroom teachers. In the first part of this session, teachers will have the opportunity to hear from a panel of organizers and legal experts on how to combat censorship as we strive to create classrooms that foster justice, understanding, and healing.

The principal’s email also accused Israel of “occupation” and “genocide.” His email stated: “In the second part of this session, teachers will have the opportunity to present and share original lessons and materials they have developed on topics such as Palestinian history, the history of Israeli occupation, and the ongoing genocide in Gaza.” Teachers who attend the event “will leave with a collection of lessons they can use with their students.”

The principal appeared to copy and paste the email directly from the NYC Educators for Palestine.

In another email dated January 25, the principal appeared to reverse course stating that he did not “endorse” the organization NYC Educators for Palestine or its materials. He stated in his explanation:

I had sought to share an example of materials circulating around the topic. I am not a member of NYC Educators for Palestine and it was not my intent to endorse the group’s message or materials, encourage participation in the curriculum share, or promote a particular viewpoint or ideology. I regret that the email was interpreted beyond that intent. The email I forwarded was not an expression of my personal political views and was only meant to share resources I received. It was not my intention to promote a position one way or the other, but my hope that we would engage in thoughtful, and respectful dialogue.

The district also provided PDE with the form linked in the principal’s email. This form stated: “We especially want to highlight the incredible work educators are doing right now to combat hate, misinformation, and misunderstanding during this critical time. If you are an educator who has developed a lesson around Palestinian history, or the ongoing genocide in Gaza, and you’d like to present it to other teachers on February 3rd, please fill in the form below!” The form asked for the staff’s pronouns, grades taught, and subject taught.

Potential attendees are also asked: “Would you like to donate a lesson about Palestinian history, the history of Israeli occupation, the ongoing genocide in Gaza, or any related topic to this curriculum share?” The form then stated: “Please note that all donated lessons will be made available for all attendees to access after the session.”