Sick: LA Charter School Teachers Removed After Teaching 1st Graders About ‘Genocide in Palestine’ at School Housed in Synagogue

Two teachers at the Citizens of the World Charter School-East Valley, located at the Adat Ari El synagogue in the Los Angeles area, have been removed after a lesson teaching first graders about “genocide in Palestine.”

At a press conference on Friday, the synagogue’s Senior Rabbi, Brian Schuldenfrei, told reporters that “some teachers” at the school reached out after Israeli flags appeared following the Hamas terrorist attacks against civilians on Oct. 7.

The charter school’s principal, Hye-Won Gehring, emailed Schuldenrei asking, “I know that this is a time to hold your community close, and perhaps the flags are intended for that – but do you know how long they will be up?”

Schuldenfrei expressed that he found the email offensive, “I told the principal that inquiring when our flags were coming down was like asking someone on September 11 to take down their American flags just a few days later. It is painfully insensitive.”

Schuldenfrei said that Gehring later apologized, but that “this was not the end of the issue.”

Schuldenfrei learned that the same teachers who complained about the Israeli flags at the school also taught a “human rights” lesson to first graders, focused on the “genocide” in Palestine, and shared it online.

The Times of Israel reports:

“I did a lesson on the genocide in Palestine today w my first graders who give me hell 90% of every day but were really into this convo and series of activities,” one teacher, who used the class’s math period for the lesson, wrote on Instagram in a private post that JTA reviewed.

The teacher added, “I started by telling them that we weren’t gonna do math at the usual time bc sometimes there are big things in the world that need our attention and we need to interrupt our usual routines to make space to learn and talk about what’s happening.”

A photo of a worksheet titled “What do humans need to live?” showed students writing their own response, with their first names clearly visible.

“I asked them what they already knew about what’s happening (they knew a lot and had questions) and I drew a little map of the occupied territories of Palestine,” another post from the same teacher says. “Then they organically started coming up w ideas for what could happen (my fav was a kid who was like “what if they just give the land back to Palestine and find somewhere else to live?”)” The teacher ended the post with a heart emoji.

Nick Melvoin, a Los Angeles Unified School District Board Member, shared:

As was mentioned, the social media posts by a couple teachers were this new breed of antisemitism, masked in the context not of criticism of a government, but of the delegitimization and destruction of Israel, the indigenous homeland of the Jewish people. The myths in those posts–of the origins of the conflict and of the actions of the Israeli people–are age-old antisemitic tropes and must never be tolerated. Particularly not with our teachers, particularly not in our classrooms, particularly not with our youngest kids.

Yet, unfortunately, we’re seeing too much of this throughout our country and the world. This is not an isolated incident here at Citizens of the World and I want to thank the school for the courage to speak today as the lessons that emerge from this will benefit students, parents, and teachers throughout the country.

And for those who may say that employees have the right to free expression, let me say that combating antisemitism, racism, and bigotry and protecting free expression are not mutually inconsistent. Educational institutions are committed to open inquiry and freedom of expression, but we must understand, particularly in the context of elementary schools where children’s minds are being shaped, that phrases such as “genocide” bear specific historical meanings and carry with them deep trauma, particularly to the Jewish people who were the victims of the largest and most methodical genocide in history.

The Jerusalem Post reports that the two teachers involved will not return to the school and Gehring has been placed on leave.

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