Around 400 students have rampaged through the halls of New York’s Hillcrest High School because a Jewish teacher had attended a pro-Israel rally. The students destroyed school property and forced the female teacher to take refuge in a locked office for two hours
The students planned a protest after a photo surfaced on social media of the teacher attending the rally two days after the Hamas attacks on Israel, seven weeks earlier. She was holding up a sign saying: I Stand With Israel.
The protest escalated into a riot. Video of the violence showed students chanting “Free Palestine” and calling for the teacher’s dismissal. It also showed shattered water fountains and smashed up bathrooms. Up to 25 police officers and school deans eventually corralled the protestors back into their classrooms and safely escorted the teacher from the school. An 18-year-old student was later charged with aggravated harassment.
The unnamed teacher has taught in the New York public school system for 20 years. She had been at Hillcrest which has around 2,500 students school for seven years. She said she was shaken to the core by the violence she experienced, both at school and online.
“No one should ever feel unsafe at school — students and teachers alike. It’s my hope in the days ahead, we can find a way to have meaningful discussions about challenging topics with respect for each other’s diverse perspectives and shared humanity. Unless we can learn to see each other as people, we will never be able to create a safe learning community,” she said.
New York Mayor Eric Adams described the riot as a “vile show of anti-Semitism motivated by ignorance-fueled hatred,” which would not be tolerated in schools or anywhere else in his city. “No student, teacher, or staff member should fear for their safety in our schools,” he asserted, adding that the New York Department of Education is investigating the incident.
The school was placed on lockdown with police officers stationed around the campus after a student told administrators that more violence could be expected if the teacher wasn’t fired. The New York Post reported claims that the students had discovered the teacher’s address, personal contact information and details about her family and that she received harassing phone calls.
City Schools Chancellor David Banks said some students had been suspended and disciplinary action was taken against others. He tried to allay the fears of teachers, at least one of whom was from Israel. He anticipated the Jewish teacher who was targeted will be able to return to the school within days.
Mr. Banks believed most students at the school weren’t aware what was going on, even many of those who joined the protest. He shared that the Department of Education has started conducting an outreach on the school campus to help the students understand why their actions were wrong. School principal Scott Milczewski told parents at a Parent Teacher Association meeting that: “Adults will always be outnumbered. I think that’s something we have to understand. And that’s why we’re asking you to speak to your children. We need your support with this.”
Last month, a similar racist riot took place at the city’s Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. Jewish students were locked inside a library as protestors pounded on the doors and chanted “Free Palestine.” The staff later evacuated the Jewish students through tunnels.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons