Open Letter to MCPS on Actions Toward Teachers About Palestine and Israel

At least four public school teachers in Montgomery County, Maryland have been placed on administrative leave for public expressions of support for Palestinians. Read a story about one of the teachers in The Washington Post.

We invite everyone to join us in writing to members of the Montgomery County board of education and county council, the school district's superintendent (and deputy sup't.), acting director of Compliance and Investigations, and chief operating officer to express concern about this biased treatment. Below is the text of a letter that can be used as is or personalized.

We are among the many people dismayed by the ongoing violence in Palestine and Israel and mourn for those whose loved ones have been killed, taken hostage, or imprisoned.

We are also concerned that the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is biased in its response to the current crisis. Teachers have been accused of antisemitism and suspended for public expressions of support for Palestinian human rights, while support for the Israeli government is considered acceptable, even encouraged through teacher trainings designed and conducted by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC).

Conflating advocacy for Palestinian rights with support for Hamas, or Judaism with Zionism, or antisemitism with criticism of the Israeli state is not only inaccurate and historically incoherent, but also dangerous. It harms teachers and their students, and silences meaningful dialogue, creating fear and tensions. Those teachers who plead for Palestinian lives are uniquely being targeted through MCPS disciplinary procedures. This constitutes discrimination and bias.

Aldous Huxley wrote in 1936: “The propagandist's purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human.”

MCPS has deemed concern for Palestinian life to be quite literally “unspeakable,” despite Amnesty International and numerous others’ condemnation of Israel’s ongoing indiscriminate murder of tens of thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians, half of whom are children, as war crimes committed at a historic pace. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees has called the unfolding crisis in Gaza under Israeli bombardment “an unprecedented catastrophe.”

Criticism of the Israeli government or Zionism is not antisemitic. In fact, thousands of Jewish people, Jewish organizations, and rabbis have been calling for a ceasefire and have publicly expressed their dismay that the Israeli government's response is putting everyone at greater risk — in the region and worldwide.

One Jewish former MCPS parent has stated, “Jewish values teach us to ‘repair the world’. MCPS, it’s your job to set the terms, the policies that diminish fear and divisiveness between your students, staff and parents. Let’s treat one another as though our lives were tied together. Because they are.”

To quote James Baldwin, “The children are always ours, every single one of them, all over the globe.”

MCPS should not apply policies selectively based on political positions or external pressure. Nor should it issue false statements about teachers, defaming their character, in communications with school staff and families.

We ask that MCPS immediately revise its approach to this current crisis and issue a public statement about how it will treat all teachers and students equitably.

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