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NYC Museum School Administration Fails to Distribute Jewish Student Union Statement on Hamas Attack in Weekly Newsletter, Cites DOE Regulations

Julia Hendler
A marked up copy of the original Jewish Student Union statement. The administration did not release the actual comments made by the DOE’s legal team.

A statement written on Oct. 12 by the Jewish Student Union (JSU) of the NYC Museum School denouncing the Oct. 7 terror attacks on Israel by Hamas was delayed by multiple offices within the NYC Department of Education (DOE), namely the press, superintendent, legal, and bureau safety office. Although approved for The Gallery, it was denied a suitable platform for publication by the administration of the school in the weekly newsletter, who claimed they were following guidelines established by the Chancellor.  

The statement, a coordinated effort between the members and faculty advisors of the JSU, grieved the violence and civilian casualties in both Israel and Gaza. It reads as follows:

The Jewish Student Union would like to express its deepest condolences in response to the recent terrorist attack by Hamas and the tragic loss of life in Israel and Gaza. This devastating event is deeply affecting and bringing distress to members of the Jewish Student Union, as well as the broader Museum School community. As a school, it is our responsibility to condemn terrorism across the globe and mourn the casualties of thousands overseas. The Jewish Student Union would like to extend our support to anyone who needs it during these turbulent times.

On Oct. 19, Assistant Principal Laura Hindelong cited Chancellor’s Regulations § D-130 as the cause for delay, stating in an interview, “They are doing their due diligence process of making sure things align with Chancellor’s Regulations D-130, and once that’s approved, they are allowing schools to send out any communications that aligns with the regulations.”

As Chancellor’s Regulations § D-130 is limited to “political campaigns and elections” and solely regulates conduct concerning political campaigns and endorsing candidates during elections, there was no constitutionally sound justification for the statement to be reviewed in this capacity. “It is very clear that they like to use this very broadly, and they will discipline. We have to do what they tell us otherwise it’s insubordination,” said Assistant Principal Vicente Viteri.

Furthermore, after a 2019 dispute between two DOE employees, in which Julianne Newman was concerned with teacher Jon Cohen’s promotion of language bearing “BDS,” referring to boycott, divestment and sanctions for Palestinian rights, and “End the #Gaza Blockade,” the Center for Constitutional Rights and Palestine Legal affirmed that “The term ‘political’ cannot be taken out of the context of D-130 to extend beyond election campaign speech to include any issue-oriented advocacy that may be deemed by some to be political.”

Later that day, the JSU reconvened, this time joined by Principal Andre Rodrigues and Assistant Principal Viteri. At this meeting, Principal Rodrigues confirmed that the legal department did approve the statement. However, even after the statement was approved, the administration once again refused to publish it in the newsletter, claiming the confirmation only applied to a student-run organization like The Gallery, thereby failing to provide a means of publishing the statement that would effectively reach all staff, students and parents.

Principal Rodrigues claimed that a chancellor’s regulation (confirmed by Assistant Principal Viteri to be D-130) prohibited schools from sending out the JSU’s message “in routine correspondence [weekly newsletter] to families regarding situations of this nature.” He added, “It can’t come from the school itself.” 

Also, at the Oct. 19 meeting, Assistant Principal Viteri said, “When a school or I or [Principal Rodrigues] or even some of your teachers make a statement in our official capacity, what ends up happening is that we represent the city, we represent the state.” He added, “It is not the content of the statement. It is the matter of the distribution.”

In lieu of publishing the statement, members of the JSU asked Principal Rodrigues to personally publish a message about the conflict, which was also denied. “We got a directive, we have to follow it,” said Assistant Principal Viteri. However, students in District Two schools, the same district as NYC Museum School, received newsletters from their principals containing strongly worded content responding to the terrorist attack.  

On Oct. 11, Principal Brooke Jackson wrote to the community at the Lab School: “Unequivocally, the brutality inflicted by Hamas upon innocent people–including children–is devastating. I would like to personally invite to my conference table tomorrow during period 5 lunch anyone seeking a space to come together, and specifically, to share with me their needs and ideas for how to support each other.”

On Oct. 12, Principal Stacy Goldstein wrote in her address to the School of the Future community: “The terror attack perpetrated by Hamas on October 7th and the devastating loss of life that resulted from it are unconscionable…these events have caused a rise in Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and celebrations of violence which are scary.”

On Oct. 14, Principal Jonathan Levin of the Clinton School wrote in his newsletter to the community: “Of the many emails you’ve received after the murder of innocent men, women and children in Israel last week, I thought Chancellor Banks’ put it best, and I share his sentiments completely…My focus at Clinton this week has been on ensuring our community helps our staff and our students directly affected, either as Israeli-Americans, or Americans who have family and friends living in Israel.”

In reference to these letters, originally addressed by the JSU, including one from Eleanor Roosevelt High School, Assistant Principal Viteri said, “There is also the aspect of whether or not other schools got clearance.” 

Correspondence at NYC Museum School was limited to a brief message sent solely to parents, which stated, “We know that many members of our community are directly impacted by the horrible attacks against Israel and the continued fighting. Our counseling department will be available for both individual and small group counseling starting tomorrow and into the future as students need a place to talk.” 

When The Gallery reached out for a statement in an Oct. 23 meeting, Assistant Principal Viteri highlighted the following excerpt of D-130: “The principal is responsible for ensuring that unauthorized material is not posted, distributed or displayed. No Department of Education duplicating, communication, electronic or other equipment may be used to produce, reproduce, record, or disseminate information on behalf of any candidate, candidates, slate of candidates or political organization/committee.”

According to Assistant Principal Viteri, the administration specifically requested to publish a statement in the weekly newsletter, but was ultimately denied by a third party outside the legal team. “Legal cleared it, and then somebody else said ‘Is this a violation? I’m concerned because it’s in an email from the administration to the community and that would be a violation of D-130,’” said Assistant Principal Viteri.

The administration declined to comment on the identity of the third party responsible for rejecting the publication of the statement.

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About the Contributors
Julia Hendler
Julia Hendler, Editor in Chief
I am thrilled to be back for my third and final year at The Gallery—this time as co-Editor in Chief! I spent the last two years working on the News section, first as a writer and then as the section’s co-editor, and I’ve truly grown to love the paper and journalism as a practice. I think, and I hope that others do too, that The Gallery holds such an important role in our school community. It serves as a platform to share the latest from the student perspective and an open forum for discussion. To you all, the readers, thank you for your support!

Zachary Semple
Zachary Semple, News Editor
Hi! I’m Zachary Semple, a News Editor for the Gallery. I hope to help cover the voice of the Museum School community regarding current events. When I’m not writing, I enjoy spending time with friends, video editing, and exploring New York.
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Comments (6)

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  • S

    StudentOct 28, 2023 at 5:03 pm

    Informative article. Very sad to see people like Mr. Levin and other school staff not equally providing support for Palestinian-American students who may need it as well, though.

  • C

    Concerned StudentsOct 26, 2023 at 1:35 pm

    This is not true. I heard it at the meeting! The school said it would send it in the newsletter after it was approved but the JSU thought it was not a good idea. Mr. R was in the hospital in the ICU people!

    • C

      C.J.SlusserOct 27, 2023 at 10:06 am

      You are absolutely correct! The article states it was an unnamed third party that declined to allow the publication of the statement. My apologies!

  • C

    C.J.SlusserOct 25, 2023 at 2:52 pm

    I applaud Zachary and Julia for their efforts . Their statement was, and still is, important for all students and citizens. Job well done, and shame on the school for not publishing!

  • L

    Liz Oct 24, 2023 at 6:29 pm

    Excellent piece!

  • N

    naomiOct 24, 2023 at 9:58 am

    Wow this is so well written and composed, good job!