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NYC schools chancellor to testify before House education committee on antisemitism


The congressional committee investigating antisemitism in education wants to hear from the New York City public schools.

Schools Chancellor David Banks and the leaders of two other school districts will go before the Republican-led U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce on May 8, he announced Thursday.

“We look forward to joining the committee,” Banks told reporters at the school system’s headquarters, “and sharing how New York City public schools continue to deliver an environment of tolerance and respect for the largest and most diverse school district in the nation.”

A spokesman for the House committee, chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), confirmed the hearing but did not immediately have more information on the other districts.

FILE - Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, testifies before the House Rules Committee as Republicans advance the "Parents Bill of Rights Act," at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, March 22, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
Rep. Virginia Foxx (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Local public schools have come under fire over a number of episodes, including a student protest last fall that targeted a Jewish teacher in Queens for her pro-Israel activism days after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack.

“I think the issues that are happening in the Middle East have visited themselves across our nation, across our neighborhoods and certainly even in our schools,” said Banks, who called antisemitism “the number-one hate issue in the nation.”

“For us, it reared its head the most at my alma mater, at Hillcrest [High School]. But that is not the only place where we have seen issue and challenge and that is not surprising to me either. We are a very large system.”

The hearing is believed to be the first on antisemitism at K-12 schools, he said.

Two out of three college presidents who testified during a congressional hearing last year, from Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania, later resigned. Both faced backlash over tepid responses to whether students who call for the genocide of Jews should face discipline.

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik will go before the committee next Monday.

Since the Israel-Hamas war began in October, a series of high-profile incidents have left Jewish families and teachers feeling unsafe. In addition to Hillcrest, staff at Origins High School in Brooklyn went public in recent weeks with allegations of antisemitism, including incidents of students who made death threats to Jews and drew swastikas in the school.

The student protest at Hillcrest and other episodes prompted Banks to deliver a speech in January about the school system’s response and plan to hold disruptors accountable. Since then, the chancellor said all administrators have undergone training and schools are partnering with external organizations, including the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

Other parents and teachers have accused city education officials of not doing enough to protect pro-Palestinian advocates.

A “doxxing” truck that targeted pro-Palestinian students at Columbia and other universities circled a Queens high school in February, after a Palestinian-American math teacher came under fire for his vocal anti-Israel stance. And a parent-led local education council in Brooklyn, who publicly called for a ceasefire, said they received death threats and even a box of feces to their elementary school office.

“I wouldn’t say that I’m proud of what we’ve done,” Banks said. “I think we’ve done what we’re supposed to do, and I don’t necessarily take pride in that.”

“But I bring together with his team an effort every day to say that we have to show up well for everybody – all of our kids, all of our teachers, all of our parents,” he added.

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