update deskSchools & Higher Education

Jewish, Israeli students afraid to go to Berkeley schools, federal complaint alleges

“The eruption of antisemitism in Berkeley’s elementary and high schools is like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” said Kenneth Marcus, chairman of the Brandeis Center.

Berkeley High School in Berkeley, Calif. Credit: Coro via Wikimedia Commons.
Berkeley High School in Berkeley, Calif. Credit: Coro via Wikimedia Commons.

Enduring “Kill the Jews” statements from peers. Being asked what their number is, “referring to numbers tattooed on Jews during the Holocaust.” Teacher-prompted walk-outs in support of Hamas terrorists. A teacher directing second-graders to write, “Stop bombing babies” on sticky notes displayed around the school.

These are some of the allegations against the Berkeley Unified School District in a Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and Anti-Defamation League complaint filed on Wednesday with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

The complaint further alleges that “peer-on-peer antisemitic bullying has escalated, as students are emboldened to emulate their teachers and perpetuate the hostility against their Jewish classmates.” The situation “is so bad that Jewish and Israeli students are often afraid to go to school,” the complaint adds.

“The eruption of antisemitism in Berkeley’s elementary and high schools is like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” said Kenneth L. Marcus, chairman of the Brandeis Center.

The California school district, which traces its history back 145 years, serves 9,400 students in 11 public elementary schools, three middle schools and a comprehensive and an alternative high school, per its website. It also operates three preschools and an adult school.

The district states that taking pride in its diversity and treating one another respectfully and acting with integrity are among its values.

The school district is accused of doing the opposite.

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

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the ADL, said that there is “no more solemn or basic obligation than protecting our children from the moment when they walk into the doors of their schools.

“To fail so monumentally that children feel forced to hide their Jewish identity for fear of reprisal is downright shocking,” he added. “We must demand more from our educational leaders.”

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