Posted by: Morton A. Klein and Susan B. Tuchman, Esq.
June 18, 2018
News Press Release

ZOA Dept. of Ed. Chancellor: Explain Silence On Beacon School Mourning Deaths of Jew-Killing Hamas Terrorists

June 14, 2018

Mr. Richard A. Carranza

Chancellor, New York City Department of Education

Tweed Courthouse

52 Chambers Street

New York, NY 10007

Dear Chancellor Carranza:

Last month, we copied you on a letter to Superintendent Kathy Rehfield-Pelles, after officials at The Beacon School – a New York City public high school – allowed a student to disrupt regular school activities and make a special announcement over the school’s public address system, requesting a moment of silence for those who were killed along the Gaza border with Israel.  As you probably know, the “victims” to whom tribute was being paid were overwhelmingly Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists who were trying to storm Israel’s border and kidnap and murder innocent Israelis.  The student’s announcement brought the entire school to a standstill and forced everyone to submit to this tribute for violent rioters and terrorists, whether they wanted to or not.

We have enclosed another copy of our letter.  It makes clear that officials at The Beacon School violated Chancellor Regulation D-130, which prohibits school facilities from being used for partisan politics of any sort.  As you know, the regulation reflects New York City’s legitimate interest in preventing its public educational mission from getting ensnared in partisan politics.

Superintendent Rehfield-Pelles did not have the courtesy to respond to our letter.  Neither did you, which is especially troubling after the unequivocal public representations you made shortly after you became chancellor. 

Failing to respond to the Beacon incident has unfortunately sent a message to other New York City public school students – that they are free to disrupt classes and normal school activities, and invade the rights of others, in order to promote and express their personal political views. 

In an April interview published in the New York Times, you could not be clearer about your responsibilities and obligations.  You stated:  As the Chancellor, I ultimately own everything.”  It was such an important statement that the Times made it the headline. 

Given this full-fledged acknowledgment of your accountability for everything that happens in New York City’s public schools, why haven’t we, Beacon’s families, and the New York City community, heard from you?  Shouldn’t all of us expect you to speak up, enforce your own regulation and repudiate what happened at Beacon, and protect students’ rights to a learning environment free of partisan political influence?  As you surely know, close to 400 families and members of the community have already signed a petition calling for “responsive and responsible” leadership.  They are expecting to hear from you and, as you confirmed in your Times interview, you are obligated to respond. 

Despite how some are trying to paint it, what happened at Beacon was not a justifiable expression of a student’s civic engagement and advocacy.  Students have many opportunities to express their opinions and discuss issues at school.  But, as Beacon officials knew or should have known, one student cannot disrupt the entire school day and hold the rest of the school hostage to the expression of one student’s personal political views.  Many Beacon students did not support the school-wide tribute to the anti-Israel violent rioters and terrorists in Gaza, were deeply hurt and offended by it – particularly since it appeared to bear the school’s seal of approval – and have been ostracized by their peers because they opposed it. 

Failing to respond to the Beacon incident has unfortunately sent a message to other New York City public school students – that they are free to disrupt classes and normal school activities, and invade the rights of others, in order to promote and express their personal political views.  Because Beacon officials permitted it, without any repudiation from you and other authorities, students now believe that they can usurp school resources and hold hostage teachers and other students for their own political purposes. 

On May 23, students at Brooklyn’s Midwood High School held their own tribute to the “victims” in Gaza.  They reportedly burst into classrooms and disrupted lessons, so that they could get special pro-Palestinian Arab scarves from other students who were supplying them.  Jewish students and teachers reported feeling threatened and afraid for their safety.  Those participating in the tribute had no right to disrupt classes, create disorder and invade the rights of others, in order to express their support for the Gaza terrorists and rioters.    

We understand that there are Beacon families who are deeply concerned that problems will escalate if they continue to be ignored, and that there could be actual physical violence at school.  We share their concern.  As you yourself acknowledged, if that happens, you will own that, too.

Please do not stay silent any longer.  Enforce your own regulations and make sure that you stand up for every student’s right to learn in an environment free of partisan political influence.  Make it clear that what happened at Beacon – and Midwood – was wrong and violated Regulation D-130, and that New York City’s public schools cannot be used for partisan politics.  They certainly cannot and should not be used for a school-wide tribute supporting terrorism, condoning violence against Israeli Jews, and delegitimizing Israel. 

We and many community members, including families at The Beacon School, look forward to hearing from you.

Very truly yours,

Morton A. Klein, National President                                                          

Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., Director, Center for Law and Justice