Newton School Retaliates Against Students and Staff Who Report Antisemitism
Many Algemeiner readers are aware that students in Newton, Massachusetts, Public Schools (NPS) — as well as other US high schools — use anti-Israel materials as part of the class curriculum. These materials are not cited as examples of bias or compared with other materials, but are instead presented as factual.
Publications by CAMERA and other organizations, including the Jewish Telegraph Agency, Fordham Foundation, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, and Verity Educate (an academic research organization that published a 152-page report on some of these materials) confirm that the issue is widespread.
An equally pernicious problem has so far remained unmentioned, however: retaliation against students, parents and teachers who report antisemitic incidents or protest anti-Israel materials.
This is the main reason why Newton parents have been unable to make further changes to the curriculum after the removal of a widely criticized text, the Arab World Studies Notebook, from high school history classes in 2012. And as with the anti-Israel class materials, it is likely that this situation is not unique to Newton.
In 2016, the Newton Teachers Association told the city that teachers who asked that antisemitic graffiti be reported to police were threatened with retaliation by school administrators. The threatened retaliation was also discussed in a NPS report about the graffiti, with names redacted. The letter and redacted report were published in The Boston Globe and Newton Tab. They are available on the website of Parents for Excellence in Newton Schools (PENS), www.newtonexcellence.org.
Prior to the threatened retaliation against teachers, the NPS retaliated against a sixteen-year-old high school student — because her parent objected to the anti-Israel material. In 2014, the state education upheld a retaliation complaint against the NPS and School Committee Vice-Chair Matthew Hills, finding that they illegally gave confidential information about the student to the media. The US Department of Education reached a similar conclusion last year. Again, confirmation can be found at www.newtonexcellence.org.
To their everlasting shame, three media entities — the Tab, its affiliated website wickedlocal.com, and the website village14.com, published the confidential information — including the student’s name and address, along with false claims implying that the student’s parent was ‘anti-Muslim.’ (The Boston Globe, which appears also to have received the confidential information, did not publish it).
Despite the fact that the city itself was responsible for the publication, and despite requests from city aldermen and others, Mayor Setti Warren and Superintendent David Fleishman refused to take any steps to alleviate the damage, telling the family that they were on their own.
Other parents have expressed their fear of retaliation at School Committee meetings, and a community forum about racism in Newton schools — but were never taken seriously. Transcripts of statements and links to videotapes are available at the PENS website.
Local Jewish institutions, including the Anti-Defamation League, are aware of the situation, yet refuse to take any action. In fact, the American Jewish Committee honored Mayor Warren for his “commitment to fighting antisemitism,” despite being fully aware of the anti-Israel texts and retaliation.
In fact, every major Boston Jewish communal organization — the ADL, AJC, Combined Jewish Philanthropies and the Jewish Community Relations Council — has taken the side of the school district, despite the fact that it is incontrovertibly clear that material presented to students as factual includes altered primary source documents (the Palestinian National Charter, Hamas Covenant and several speeches), a text which claims that Africa and South America were valid alternatives for a Jewish homeland, and a class exercise presenting the elimination of Israel as a mainstream option for “peace.”
These institutions, as well as local rabbis, also launched personal attacks on Charles Jacobs, a local activist, for his role in bringing the matter to public attention.
It is incomprehensible that the mayor, superintendent and other officials know that students are presented with blatently anti-Israel “facts”; know that teachers were threatened to not report antisemitic incidents; know that a student was retaliated against due to objections to anti-Israel material; and know who is responsible, yet have done nothing. It is even more incomprehensible that this happened with the full knowledge and acquiescence of the organized Jewish community.
What’s happening in Newton is an outrage against all Jews, yet Jewish organizations and Jewish individuals condone and perpetuate it. It needs to be stopped. Parents and teachers cannot do this alone, while being threatened with retaliation and without aid from local “leaders.” We need the public’s help to protect students and teachers while bringing this deplorable situation to an end.
Please help us by viewing our website, contacting school officials (addresses provided on the site), and joining with us to protect a generation of students from state-supported antisemitism.
Evan Jacobi is the president of Parents for Excellence in Newton Schools (PENS). A version of this article with links to relevant information is on our website at www.newtonexcellence.org.