House Republicans’ Next Target: Reports of Antisemitism in K-12 Schools

School district officials have faced off with students, parents, school board members and teachers about issues related to the Israel-Hamas war — but until now, not members of Congress.

On Wednesday, leaders from three public school districts — New York City; Berkeley, Calif.; and Montgomery County in Maryland — will be questioned by members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which has grilled four college presidents on accusations of campus antisemitism, helping to topple two of them.

For the three public school leaders, who are likely to face a similarly tense environment, “it’s hard to imagine a less welcome invitation,” said Justin Driver, a professor at Yale Law School who is an expert on how constitutional law applies to schools.

The three school districts, all diverse, have robust American Jewish communities. They are also in staunchly liberal areas, making them ripe targets for the Republicans who run the committee. And they have had their share of controversies.

In New York City, an elementary school posted a map of the “Arab world” that did not label Israel, identifying the country as “Palestine.” In Montgomery County, outside Washington, swastikas have been drawn on school desks. And in Berkeley, several teachers presented lessons that referred to Israeli “apartheid” against Palestinians.

The district leaders — David Banks, chancellor of New York City schools; Enikia Ford Morthel, superintendent of Berkeley schools; and Karla Silvestre, the school board president in Montgomery County — must walk a tightrope at the hearing. They are likely to face complex questions about free speech and the point at which protest of Israel veers into antisemitism. Those are matters of contentious debate, both nationally and in their own communities.

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