The world watched in horror as the terrorist group Hamas launched thousands of missiles at Israel and ruthlessly invaded America’s closest ally in the region last weekend. We all witnessed the traumatizing videos published on social media as the Israeli death toll continued to rise. As a Christian of Jewish descent, the events of the past week have been nothing short of gut-wrenching.
In recent years, the same antisemitism and bigotry that inspired Hamas have insidiously seeped into America’s K-12 education system under the guise of “ethnic studies” and “diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
Take the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), with more than 400,000 students, for example. In August 2020, the school district passed a resolution mandating that high school students complete at least one ethnic studies course to graduate. The district appears to be linked to and possibly influenced by the organization Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Consortium (LESMCC).
The LESMCC states on its website that “Critical Race Theory is one of the many theoretical lenses used in Ethnic Studies.” The consulting firm is known for encouraging schools to implement anti-Israel and anti-Jewish curricula and advocacy with its program.Parents Defending Education (PDE) reported last year how an activist teacher within the district helped establish the firm and currently serves in a leadership position.
The LESMCC previously promoted a “toolkit” titled “Preparing to Teach Palestine” that explained teachers “might want to center gentrification and forced relocation” in their lessons.This would be part of an effort to educate students about the “impact of continuing colonial control on water resources at the US/Mexico border and in Gaza.” The full toolkit explains that “teaching the truth about the history of the US is a liberatory act” and that “teaching the truth about Palestine is also a liberatory act.”
The LAUSD’s ties to a group that promotes antisemitism in schools should come as no surprise considering a previous incident that occurred in 2021. Decorations in a class at Alexander Hamilton High School included a Palestinian flag and a sign that exclaimed “make Israel Palestine again.” Another sign in the classroom encouraged students to honor “Palestinian mothers with children in Israeli jails.”
Additional school districts linked to the LESMCC include the Napa Valley Unified School District and Castro Valley Unified School District in California. Both districts approved contracts with the LESMCC for professional development and consulting.
Unfortunately, this consulting firm is far from the only group that has pushed antisemitism in U.S. schools.
The New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America hosted an anti-Israel protest in Times Square the day after the Hamas attack. On X (formerly Twitter), the organization stated that Hamas’ actions were a “direct result of Israel’s apartheid regime” and that “Palestinians have faced ethnic cleansing, torture, bombings, and housing demolitions.” One participant even waved the image of a swastika.
From its place on the fringe, this radical organization enjoys support among many in education.
In 2022, the Passaic County Education Associations in New Jersey sent an email to teachers promoting a “summer series” from the “Democratic Socialists of America BDS and Palestine Solidarity Working Group.” The purpose of this series was to “equip” teachers “with the knowledge and practices needed to bring the truth about Palestine into our classrooms.”
One session of this series intended to teach educators about “heroic resistance to Zionism,” the exact same type of language used by those murdering the elderly, raping Jewish women, and decapitating babies.
On October 9, the organization Black Lives Matter Grassroots published a statement on social media cheering on Hamas, citing “57 years of settler colonialism and apartheid.” According to BLM, the massacre of women and children was “an attempt to tear down the gates of the world’s largest open air prison” before stating that “we see clear parallels between Black and Palestinian people.”
Influence Watch describes Black Lives Matter Grassroots as an “organization affiliated with the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation.” This foundation is “the primary organizational outgrowth of the more decentralized Black Lives Matter movement.” PDE has reported on numerous school districts throughout the country supporting BLM, including the Howard County Public School System in Maryland, Portland Public Schools in Maine, Henrico County Public Schools in Virginia, and Jefferson County Public Schools in Kentucky.
That American schools in recent years have supported antisemitic organizations and firms that unabashedly support Hamas is certainly a hard truth to swallow. After all, the group has killed and kidnapped American citizens. But the reality is that for too long our nation’s education system has knowingly allowed such extremism and bigotry to seep into classrooms where children’s minds are molded. Our leaders must now act swiftly to ensure our schools can longer be a safe haven for hate.
Casey Ryan is a staff writer at Parents Defending Education.