Berkeley and NYC school districts act after House antisemitism probe

Tim O’Brien, the father of a senior at Berkeley High School in California and a supporter of the Palestinian cause, watched a congressional investigation into anti-Semitism involving the school district’s superintendent Enikea Ford Morthell on Wednesday. In his eyes she was a “rock star”.

Three thousand miles away on Capitol Hill, another Berkeley High parent, Jewish Ilana Perlman, witnessed the same testimony and could not believe her ears, especially as Ms. The passage where Ford Morthell said anti-Semitism was “not widespread.” School District.

Republican lawmakers have accused school district leaders in Berkeley, New York City and Montgomery County of not responding adequately to anti-Semitism in public schools. Since then, the local reaction to the investigation has seemed to be one of passing, with some minds changing and some questioning whether the move was worth it.

In a classroom at the University of California, Berkeley, with about 10 pro-Palestinian parents over coffee and muffins, Mr. O’Brien generally disapproved of the trial, but thought Mrs. Ford Morthell handled it well.

“It’s like the Salem witch trials,” he said, adding that the investigations were diverted from the devastation in Gaza. But he said it was right for educators to teach their students about the war with Israel and the importance of Palestinian liberation. She thought Mrs. Ford Mortell conveyed that message effectively.

“We were all hoping that her personality and charm, kindness and intelligence would somehow find a way to get into that kind of harmful environment, and she didn’t disappoint,” he said.

Ms. Pearlman said he appreciated the investigation but was disappointed by the superintendent’s testimony.

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He was especially fond of Mss. Ford denied Morthal’s opening statement that anti-Semitism was a major problem in the district.

Watching the proceedings with other Jewish mothers in the interrogation room, Mrs. Pearlman said Ms. Ford approached Mortel after the trial.

“I said, ‘Why don’t you believe us?'” Ms. Perlman explained. “She grabbed my hands. I wanted to throw up. She said, ‘I believe you, I do.’ I said, ‘No, you don’t.’

Mrs. Pearlman said her son, a freshman, saw his art teacher punch a Star of David and heard another teacher call Israel a settler colony. He said he now keeps his Jewish heritage quiet.

Ms. Ford Morthell declined to grant an interview after her testimony.

After the trial, things became even more complicated at the Berkeley schools. The Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations joined the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Group in filing a federal complaint on behalf of school staff and parents alleging “severe and pervasive anti-Palestinian racism” in the district.

Ms. While largely supportive of Ford Morthel, the group said individual principals did not properly address incidents including students taunting their Arab and Muslim classmates with chants of “terrorists” and “9-11.” In another incident, a student allegedly ripped a classmate’s hijab.

Molly Sampson, whose daughter is half-Palestinian in Berkeley schools, said she thinks the anti-Semitism allegations are overblown and a waste of the trial’s time.

“It’s our city, our county, and then you see how it’s portrayed nationally, and you feel like you’re living in an upside-down world,” he said. “I thought our superintendent had incredible grace and poise in handling it.”

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The hearing was followed by pro-Palestinian rallies in Berkeley and New York, where parents, teachers and other participants discussed the importance of teaching about the Palestinians. In public schools.

Muhammad Delgado, a senior at Berkeley High School, said he watched the trial before attending the rally, and Ms. Ford said he appreciates Morthell standing up for the district.

“I thought our superintendent did a great job of defending and pushing back against this narrative that our educators and our students are anti-Semitic,” he said. “My experience is cooperation and brotherhood.”

Mrs. Like Ford Mortel, the New York City schools chancellor has pushed back hard against Republican lawmakers’ contention that his school district isn’t doing enough to stop anti-Semitism. Officer, David C. Banks acknowledged some anti-Semitic incidents, but said he and the district addressed them with appropriate measures and that Republicans were looking for “gotcha” moments rather than practical solutions.

Leah Wiseman Fink, a Brooklyn public school mother of two, attended the hearing and said she felt it covered some important anti-Semitic incidents in New York schools but left out others.

For example, he said he was blocked by the school board’s official Instagram account and not allowed to video meetings after complaining about anti-Semitism in schools. He, along with other local parents, filed an official complaint about the school board’s treatment of Jewish parents, but it never went to trial.

“I’m glad some part of the story is being told,” he said. “But large parts of the story are missing.”

Montgomery County, Md., outside of Washington. Karla Silvestre, the school board president in , acknowledged reports of “antisemitic imagery, language and vandalism” in county schools, and admitted that “we don’t get it right every time.” But Mr. Like Banks, Ms. Silvestre said his district will soon be rolling out new training programs and curricula.

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Rachel Barrault, a high school sophomore in Montgomery County, attended Wednesday’s hearing and appeared distraught.

Before the hearing, he submitted a letter to the office of North Carolina Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx, chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, saying Montgomery County schools did not act quickly enough to respond to an outbreak. Anti-Semitism.

Ms. Ford Morthel and Mr. Compared to Banks, Ms. Ms. Silvestre found the hearing “pretty useless” because she spoke less. Barold said in a text message.

Adam Zimmerman, who has two children in Montgomery County schools and teaches Holocaust education to middle school students at a local synagogue, said he didn’t expect the hearing to be a major moment, and later said it wasn’t so clear.

“It’s not a problem that a hearing aid can solve by itself,” he said. “My hope,” he added, is that school leaders there “understand that we still face an important problem.”

Coral Murphy Marcos Berkeley, Calif., and Troy Clawson Contributed reporting from New York.

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