California School District Blasted for Unchecked Antisemitism
antisemitism

Teachers even attempted to intimidate Jewish parents who complained.

By Dion J. Pierre, The Algemeiner

Antisemitism in the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) in California has caused severe psychological trauma to Jewish students as young as eight years old and fostered a hostile learning environment, a new civil rights complaint filed on Wednesday by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) alleges.

The problem exploded after Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7, the suit says.

Since then, BUSD teachers have allegedly used their classrooms to promote antisemitic tropes about Israel, weaponizing disciplines such as art and history to convince unsuspecting minors that Israel is a “settler-colonial” apartheid state committing genocide of Palestinians.

While this took place, high level BUSD officials allegedly ignored complaints about discrimination and tacitly approved hateful conduct even as it spread throughout the student body.

At Berkeley High School, for example, a history teacher forced students to explain why Israel is an apartheid state and screened an anti-Zionist documentary.

The teacher sharply squelched dissent, telling a Jewish student who raised concerns about the content of her lessons that only anti-Zionist narratives matter in her classroom and that any other which argues that Israel isn’t an apartheid state is “laughable.”

Elsewhere in the school, an art teacher, whose name is redacted from the complaint for matters of privacy, displayed anti-Israel artworks in his classroom, one of which showed a fist punching through a Star of David.

Teachers even attempted to intimidate Jewish parents who complained, the complaint continues. Just days after Oct. 7, a second-grade teacher, who hung a Palestinian flag in the window of her classroom after Oct. 7, threatened the family of a concerned father after learning he had reported her conduct.

“I know who you are, I know who you f— wife is, and I know where you live,” the teacher said to him at a school event. Later, in a Facebook post, the teacher defended her politicization of the classroom, proclaiming, “I’ve been a non-neutral educator for all 20 years I’ve been a teacher.”

“The eruption of of antisemitism in Berkeley’s elementary and high schools is like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” Brandeis Center chairman and former Assistant Secretary of Education Kenneth Marcus said in a press release announcing the legal action.

“It is dangerous enough to see faculty fanning the flames of antisemitism on college campuses, but to see teachers inciting hate in the youngest grades while Berkeley administrators sit idly by as it continues to escalate by the day is reprehensible. Where is the accountability? Where are the people who are supposed to protect and educate students?”

At several schools throughout BUSD, students were recruited to assist anti-Zionists teachers in cheering Hamas’ atrocities as “liberation.”

They were called on to join “walk outs” and rewarded with excused absences in return for their participation, another violation of district policy forbidding excused absences for all but the most important reasons.

These demonstrations became salvos of antisemitic rhetoric. During one organized at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School, students shouted “KKK,” “Kill Israel,” “Kill the Jews,” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

In another incident, the second-grade teacher who threatened a parent instructed her students to write “Stop bombing babies” on sticky notes.

The behavior of BUSD teachers and the benefits they offered in exchange for engaging in antisemitic behavior sent a strong signal to students that hating Jews is normal, socially acceptable behavior, the complaint explains.

Acting on such approval, they proceeded to bully Jewish students with impunity. “You have a big nose because you are a stupid Jew,” a Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School student told their Jewish classmate.

Another called a Jewish student a “midget Jew,” and throughout the district it became a trend to ask Jewish students if they have a “number,” an allusion to tattoos given to Jewish concentration camp prisoners during the Holocaust.

In almost every case investigations of teacher misconduct and bullying never led to disciplinary measures.

School administrators removed Jewish students from the classrooms of demagogic instructors instead of enforcing policy which safeguards the classroom against politics and discrimination.

Student perpetrators of antisemitism evaded punishment. The result was that parents were powerless to rectify the situation and Jewish students, left with no option but to register for new courses, fell behind in their lessons.

Others, fearing that they would be “jumped” or subject to academic retaliation, became truant or transferred to new schools.

“It is beyond deplorable that in a moment of rising antisemitism both here in the US and abroad that teachers and administrators at BUSD are falling down in their obligation to protect our Jewish students,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said.

“There is no more solemn or basic obligation than protecting our children from the moment when they walk into the doors of their schools, and to fail so monumentally that children feel forced to hide their Jewish identity for rear of reprisal is downright shocking. We must demand more from our educational leaders.”

In a statement sent to The Algemeiner on Wednesday, BUSD said it is aware that “some members of our community” have experienced “pain” because of the “ongoing crisis in Israel in Gaza.” Its statement made no mention of antisemitism.

“The district continuously encourages students and families to report any incidents of bullying or hate-motivated behavior and vigorously investigates each and every report,” the district added.

“While we have not received official notification of the recent federal complaint, the district will work with the Office of Civil Rights in support of a thorough investigation. We remain committed to engaging with our community to ensure that BUSD is a district that lives up to its values of excellence, engagement, equity, and enrichment.”

After receiving an inquiry about the school’s policies on antisemitism, BUSD later sent The Algemeiner a second statement which said, “Berkeley Unified stands against all forms of hate, including hate motivated behavior and speech. We stand against antisemitism, Islamophobia, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and all forms of discrimination, bullying, and harassment.”

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