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NYC parents, teachers want DOE held accountable by Congress for antisemitism

Parents, teachers and advocates want Schools Chancellor David Banks to be held “accountable” for what they say are hollow promises to combat antisemitism in New York City classrooms when he’s grilled by Congress this week.
Banks will travel to Washington DC alongside school district leaders from Maryland’s Montgomery County and Berkeley, California on Wednesday to testify at a congressional hearing about antisemitism in K-12 schools.
“We hope the hearing will hold Banks accountable and drive him to become the leader that Jewish students and families need,” said Tova Plaut, founder of NYCPS Alliance, an advocacy group of parents, educators and community members that has been vocal about the issue of antisemitism in city schools.
4 Chancellor David Banks will travel to D.C. with district leaders from Maryland’s Montgomery County and Berkeley California on Wednesday to respond to antisemitism in K-12 schools. William Farrington
“I want to hear from Chancellor David Banks that he truly understands that some of the schools he runs are actively inhospitable to Jewish students and staff and it is his responsibility to address the cultural safety concerns,” added Maud Maron, a Manhattan mom and member of the Community Education Council District 2.
The Big Apple school system — the largest in the US — has seen multiple flare-ups amid the Israel-Hamas war, including an anti-Israel student riot at Queens’ Hillcrest High School, a citywide student walkout calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and allegations of heinous antisemitism at Brooklyn’s Origins High School.
Jim Walden, an attorney who represents Danielle Kaminsky — a Jewish teacher who claims Origins High School students terrorized her with swastikas, death threats and Nazi salutes — said Banks’ response, thus far, has been “pathetic.”
“Bluntly, we hope Congress exposes Banks latent anti-Israel/anti-Jewish bias and helps bring change to the DOE and across the country,” he told The Post on Tuesday.
Walden added he hopes Congress will pass legislation to tie federal funding to compliance with anti-bias standards that “have teeth.”
When approached for comment, the DOE pointed to a press conference from last week in which Banks previewed the message he intends to deliver before the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce, emphasizing that he’s been working to combat “all forms of hate.”
4 Hillcrest High School students participating in an anti-Israel rally on Nov. 20, 2023. Dennis A. Clark
Banks acknowledged that the city’s response hasn’t been “perfect,” but maintained he was proud of what the department has done so far, lauding his “Meeting the Moment” plan — described as an initiative to tackle antisemitism through education, safety and engagement.
“Putting a spotlight on any particular individual and sometimes trying to create ‘gotcha’ moments is not how you ultimately solve problems that you really, deeply care about,” he said.
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“I would ask for Congress to figure out a way to bring people together from across the nation to help to solve for this insidious level of hate.”
Banks also noted the development of the interfaith council, curricula on Jewish and Muslim history and his revision of the disciplinary code with city principals.
4 An Origins High School student is caught on camera doing a Nazi salute in the hallway while dressed as Hitler. Courtesy of Sidney Southerland
4 The word “die” written on the door of a Jewish teacher’s classroom at Origins High School.
Manhattan mom and Community Education Council District 3 member, Yael Denbo, said combining Islamophobia and antisemitism is “oversimplifying the complexities of each form of prejudice” and unnecessarily pitting the two groups against one another.
“In January, Banks promised to ‘meet the moment,’ but those words have felt like empty promises. I hope tomorrow brings a moment of clarity where Chancellor Banks will have to address his inaction,” she added.
Rep. Aaron Bean, who chairs the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, told The Post that he and House Education and Workforce Committee chairwoman Virginia Foxx would “do whatever it takes” to hold Banks accountable — including using the congressional panel’s subpoena power.
“She’s ratcheted it up against the other witnesses that have come before us,” Bean (R-Fla.) said of Foxx (R-NC).
“Especially if they’re not truthful, if they’re not honest or if they’re not doing all they can do to keep students and faculty safe.”
He added that pulling federal funds from school districts failing to investigate Title VI complaints was also “100% on the table,” along with revoking visas for foreign students who are discriminating against fellow classmates.
“They’ve been given a chance — few have — to study in the United States,” Bean said. “They need to go home. And certainly anybody associated with the high school that’s here from a foreign country that’s instigating things. They need to be on the first flight out.
“We have to bring our colleagues on the other side to that realization that there needs to be consequences,” he added.
The same committee has grilled college presidents from Columbia, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, and MIT in recent months.
“Antisemitism isn’t just rearing its ugly head on college campuses. It’s seeping into K-12 schools as well,” Foxx said.
“Jewish K-12 students, faculty, and staff have been forced to contend with repeated harassment, disruptions, verbal abuse. We are holding leaders of some of the most embattled school districts to account for their glaring failure to discipline antisemitic perpetrators and to provide a safe learning environment for Jewish students and staff.”

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