update deskAntisemitism

California public school denies imposing gag order on students told: ‘Israelis, Jews should be killed’

The Manhattan Beach Unified School District did not answer questions about its investigation, which found that there was no hate speech.

Manhattan Beach Middle School. Source: Google Street View.
Manhattan Beach Middle School. Source: Google Street View.

The Manhattan Beach Middle School, a public school in California, is denying that it asked four Jewish students, all age 11, who were allegedly told “all Israelis and Jews should be killed” by a classmate to sign gag orders.

The school is not releasing the findings of its own investigation into the alleged comments, including saying “revenge is beautiful” in reference to Oct. 7 terrorist attacks perpetrated by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Joshua Kalev, the rabbi of the “Conservative-style” Congregation Tikvat Jacob Beth Torah in Manhattan Beach, Calif., said that it’s a shame that 11-year-olds are losing their innocence.

“I have our students coming up to me saying, ‘I don’t feel comfortable wearing a Jewish star at school’ or a T-shirt they got on a trip to Israel,” the rabbi said. “They’ve asked their parents to take down their mezuzah from their doorpost because they don’t want to be identified as a Jewish family.”

Hibah Samad, public information officer for the Manhattan Beach Unified School District, responded to questions from JNS by providing a statement the district had already released, including its claim that it asked the students to sign a voluntary “no contact contract,” as opposed to a gag order.

“The safety of our students and staff is a priority for us. Antisemitism and any other forms of discrimination are unacceptable and will not be tolerated on our campuses. Our schools should be a place where all individuals feel respected and supported,” read the statement.

The district stated that it was aware of allegations “regarding inappropriate interactions between students at MBMS surrounding their views on current events in the Middle East.” It contended that “much of what is being shared on social media and within the local community is not based on fact.”

Despite conducting what it called a “thorough investigation,” the district said that “student privacy laws preclude divulging specific details of investigatory findings, so we cannot comment on the specifics of the matter” though “appropriate consequences have been administered.”

JNS asked Samad whether—without violating student privacy—the district’s investigation found that the statement “all Israelis and Jews should be killed” was not said or whether it considered such a statement to be political rather than hate speech. It also asked the district to explain why students who appear to have been victims would be asked to sign a gag order or even a “no contact contract.”

Samad did not respond to either question.

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