A New Jersey school district with a high Jewish population had already received criticism for its muted response to the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks in Israel, describing the mass murders and other atrocities as “incidents in the cycle of violence in the Middle East.” But discriminatory efforts to silence pro-Israel advocates at a school board meeting last month have just dug the hole deeper.
The Teaneck School Board conducted a public meeting on Oct. 17, when in the public comment section, multiple speakers advocated for or against the Jewish state. Repeatedly, the board sought to interrupt when commenters spoke about the details of the atrocities perpetrated by Hamas on Oct. 7.
At one point, the board responded: “The facts don’t need to be repeated.” It noted that they were already on the record and reminded the audience that children were present.
When anti-Israel speakers came up to the microphone and used the same “graphic” language about stabbings and rape, the board did not interrupt them.
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) analyzed the meeting, concluding that the board discriminated against pro-Isarel voices.
“Several parents and community members used the public comment period to criticize Spencer for not explicitly and forcefully condemning the attack. But when they described Hamas’s actions to support that criticism, the board repeatedly shut them down,” FIRE’s Rapid Response Director Carrie Robison and Director of Public Advocacy Aaron Terr wrote. “Even if the board’s censorship wasn’t motivated by speakers’ views, it was arbitrary and divorced from clear, objective, and sufficiently precise standards, as the First Amendment requires.”
On Nov. 29, students at Teaneck High School staged an anti-Israel walkout that the school board defended on First Amendment grounds, despite a letter written by 13 local rabbis describing the event as a “blood libel.”
The letter demanded “that the superintendent and board of education prevent this grotesque and overt antisemitism in public school.”