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Superintendent: Third Grade event “politically skewed, inflammatory” against Israel

Superintendent: Third Grade event “politically skewed, inflammatory” against Israel

Ithaca (NY): Ended with call for “solidarity and being freedom fighters for Palestine”

In a stunning development, Luvelle Brown, Superintendent of Schools, Ithaca (NY) City School District, has acknowledged that serious anti-Israel agitation took place when controversial Palestinian activist Bassem Tamimi appeared with local anti-Israel activists before third graders, ending in a call to activism:

“In a closing statement of how students could help, a speaker spoke of solidarity and being freedom fighters for Palestine; to bring peace and protect the future of their children.”

Brown stated, among other thing, that such statements and others were inappropriate:

“The Ithaca City School District’s position is that such statements are not developmentally appropriate for third graders, nor aligned with the New York State standards. The statements were politically skewed, inflammatory, and not endorsed by the Ithaca City School District.”

The full letter is later in this post. But first, the background of how we reached this point.

Bassem Tamimi and Ariel Gold

On Sunday night, September 20, 2015, Legal Insurrection broke the story how Anti-Israel activism hits elementary school in Ithaca, NY:

An uproar is brewing in Ithaca, New York, after anti-Israel activists bragged on Facebook how they managed to bring Palestinian activist Bassem Tamimi to a third-grade class as part of a presentation on the suffering of Palestinian children at the hands of Israel.

That third grade event took place on Friday, September 18.

In our post, we detailed Tamimi’s background of dangerously encouraging young Palestinian children to confront Israeli soldiers and police for the purpose of generating viral video and photos.

The game goes like this: Tamimi’s children and other children from the village of Nabi Saleh are encouraged to confront Israeli soldiers in the hope of provoking a reaction. The children are surrounded by a phalanx of photographers and videographers waiting for the viral moment when the Israeli soldier reacts, which then is fed to the media through the Tamimi media operation and international activists who often participate.

Tamimi’s own children Ahed and Mohammad are the superstars of the Tamimi media machine, along with 9-year old cousin Janna Jihad Tamimi who has been used for this purpose since she was 5.

[Tamimi children Ahed (Blond) and Mohammad, 2012 Video]

Tamimi’s history of such exploitation is set forth in the September 20 post, and also in these prior posts:

We also noted that the appearance in the third grade class involved Ithaca-based anti-Israel activist Ariel Gold, who also uses her own children as part of her anti-Israel activism. Gold self-describes her occupation as a Community Activist “delegitimizing zionism.” Gold’s history includes organizing the failed attempt to force the local GreenStar Food Coop to boycott Israeli products, and a contrived arrest at the 2015 AIPAC conference as part of a Code Pink protest.

During a late 2014, early 2015 trip to the town of Bil’in in the West Bank, Gold and her family met the Tamimi family, including Bassem and Ahed. It is no surprise, therefore, that Gold serves as the coordinator for Bassem Tamimi’s national speaking tour, which is ongoing.

Based on the Facebook postings of Gold and activist Mary Anne Grades Flores, who also attended, it was clear that the presentation to the third graders was political and meant to demonize Israel. One of the speakers, in addition to Tamimi, was Gold’s 12-year old daughter who doesn’t even attend the school.

Flores posted an image of Tamimi in the class holding a poster (Gold’s daughter’s name redacted by me):

“Holding the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, Bassem Tamimi, father of 4, of Palestine and 12 yr old Ithacan [________] Gold spoke to BJM 3rd graders about Palestinian children struggling living under Israeli occupation….”

Flores also described how Gold’s daughter told a story to the children (name redacted by me):

“What an honor to be with the 3rd grade at BJM with Bassem Tamimi, Ms Burnett, [________] Gold, and her mom, Ariel. Thank you [__________] for reading that wonderful story from a Palestinian child’s dreams, speaking with his mom, about what life could be like without the occupation wall. You were wonderful.”

[Bassem Tamimi and Mary Anne Grady Flores with students at Beverly J. Martin Elementary School]

[Bassem Tamimi and Mary Anne Grady Flores with students at Beverly J. Martin Elementary School][Image via Ariel Gold Facebook]

Prior to publishing the September 20 post, I made multiple attempts by email to get answers from Superintendent Brown and School Principal Susan Eschbach (see prior post for copy of my letter). I received no response prior to my post.

Outrage, Then School Denial Event Was Anti-Israel

The response to our post was overwhelming, with write ups at The Free Beacon, The Blaze, Arutz Sheva, The Tower, Truth Revolt, and elsewhere.

There also has been an outpouring of outrage in Ithaca and the broader community, a reaction to the political exploitation of third graders. Had this happened in high school, it would have been bad enough. But to drag third graders into the anti-Israel agenda was just too much for people to bear.

In response to that reaction, on September 22, Principal Eschbach sent me a statement defending the appearance, insisting that there were no anti-Israel statements. The full statement is available in the prior post, it reads in part (emphasis added):

Responding to the concerns about Tamimi’s arrival at BJM.

In keeping with the 3rd grade curriculum standard to study human rights, as well as the ICSD ongoing efforts to bring authenticity and local relevance to our studies, human rights activists were brought into the classroom….

During the presentation, the 12 year old spoke of her friendship with Tamimi’s daughter, and described how they shared dancing experiences with each other. She also read a story to the class. During the discussion the adults also shared examples of children’s responses to soldiers in the village, and what it means to live with a wall, as well as images of struggle.

There were many adults present in the class and at no time was there an anti-Israel, anti-Palestine, anti-Jewish, or anti-Muslim stance….

In an update to my prior post, I called that school response nonsense:

Frankly, it is nonsense. Read the descriptions on Facebook from Gold and Flores and it is clear that the goal and content of the presentation was to present Palestinians as victims of Israelis, without any counterbalancing information to the students.

I have been proven correct. The presentation to the third graders was an anti-Israel propaganda event.

Superintendent Acknowledges Anti-Israel Nature of Event

Late last night I received an email from Superintendent Brown, as follows in full (emphasis added):

I apologize for the delayed response. After learning of the appearance of Bassem Tamimi in one of our classrooms, I asked for a thorough investigation and review. In response to your concerns and questions, I offer the following clarification:

On Friday, September 18th, as part of the New York State social studies curriculum on human rights, two speakers presented to the third grade at Beverly J. Martin Elementary School. The assumed purpose of the talk was to focus on human rights and peace. Upon further investigation, we have learned that the speakers went beyond the original intent of the talk. Additionally, school administration was not informed beforehand of the invitation to include one of the speakers.

The following statements are some of the most egregious examples from the presentation:

At the beginning of the session, the speakers showed a brief video of a young Palestinian girl who references Israelis killing Palestinians;

●There was an indication by the speakers that Israel has broken many United Nations’ laws and that Israel controls all of the resources of the geographic area;

In a closing statement of how students could help, a speaker spoke of solidarity and being freedom fighters for Palestine; to bring peace and protect the future of their children.

The Ithaca City School District’s position is that such statements are not developmentally appropriate for third graders, nor aligned with the New York State standards. The statements were politically skewed, inflammatory, and not endorsed by the Ithaca City School District.

At a minimum, we are taking immediate action in the following areas:

● We will review policies and procedures for guest speakers and visitors to our schools.

● The teaching of human rights is a complex task which is required by NYS standards. We are undertaking a thorough review of how we teach this important subject.

We recognize that the Israeli Palestinian conflict is very sensitive to many members of our community. We also recognize that this delicate topic was not presented in a manner consistent with its importance. We sincerely regret that this has occurred.

After receiving the statement, I requested a copy of the full investigation report and findings, but as of this writing have not received the materials.

The letter itself leaves too many questions as to what happened, how, what was shown to the students, and who said what.

Why didn’t any of the teachers speak out against this clear political activism? Our investigation indicates that one of the teachers expressed support for the event after it happened.  Was that teacher, who we believe is friendly with Gold, how access was gained? The District needs to investigate these connections.

Additionally, how could the school principal issue a statement denying that the event was anti-Israel?

From everything I have heard about Superintendent Brown, he is a good guy who takes this issue very seriously, as his email to me reflects. It will be interesting to see where this leads.

Clearly, there is a problem at the Beverly J. Martin School, where the anti-Israel fox has been let into the hen house.

Does anti-Israel agitation extend beyond that school, and what steps will the School District take to make sure that the classrooms are not turned into anti-Israel political theaters?

We will continue to follow this story until all the questions are answered.

UPDATE: ‘Jewish Voice for Peace’ defends anti-Israel Third Grade event


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Here’s a novel idea. Teach Current Events as an ongoing topic in high school and allow students to discover for themselves how the world works. Perhaps one of them will discover, and ask why countries like Cuba, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Algeria, and many others are on the United Nations Human Rights Council. As far as elementary schools: stick to basics and leave political and sexual philosophies outside the classroom. A simple Mission Statement should be adequate: “Our job is to teach, not indoctrinate”. Focus on that and all will be well.

    gibbie in reply to gasper. | September 25, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    This is profoundly foolhardy. A high school student does not have the background to properly evaluate many of the issues in current events. The quaint notion that “Our job is to teach, not indoctrinate” is absurd. It is simply not possible to remove indoctrination from education. Education is saturated with worldview. Anyone who denies this is fooling themselves or is a leftist, but I repeat myself.

      gibbie in reply to gibbie. | September 25, 2015 at 6:29 pm

      Please forgive my self-righteous tone. Somebody had to explain this concept to me, and he was much nicer about it.

It may be a cliche by now, but having kid in a public school (with some exceptions) is a form of child abuse. The same is true for a lot of private schools, unfortunately. Poisonous fruit from the same orchard predominates in both.

    Exactly right.

    Wife’s sister sent her daughter to an expensive private Christian school for high school.

    Daughter graduated this last June, hating God, a vegan, and wants to vote for Bernie Sanders.

    A SERIOUSLY broken kid.

      gibbie in reply to Clinger. | September 25, 2015 at 6:01 pm

      That school should get some free negative advertising. Sadly, a lot of this stuff thrives because people have valid privacy concerns.

      Valerie in reply to Clinger. | September 25, 2015 at 8:38 pm

      Give her time. Smart kids do eventually figure things out.

      Right now, my kids think Bernie Sanders is wonderful. They think that our current warming trend is related to human activity. And one of my nephews thinks that Marxism is the solution to all of the world’s problems. But I have already started teaching them basic economics and also experimental statistics. They will learn.

This shocks me. The left REALLY has zero scruples about how to win.

Progressives (not just the left) have mastered the practice of indoctrination at any age, especially via educational mechanisms.

    Yes, and conservatives should do the same – except only with children whose parents approve of the content of the indoctrination.

    Think about it. Do we tell our children, “Johnny, here are the positive and negative aspects of theft. We’re leaving the decision as to whether to steal or not up to you.”? No, we tell Johnny, “Do not steal”. That’s good indoctrination. The left’s indoctrination is evil indoctrination, including the idea that there is no objective standard of good and evil.

Jews should have their kids in Jewish day schools. Why bother with public schools at all. The government makes you pay for them so it’s in their best interest to drive down enrollment. No one cares about outcomes so if they turn into cages to keep psychopaths off the street until their parents come home to preach to them about starting another Kristalnacht, who cares?

The assumed purpose of the talk was to focus on human rights and peace.

One of my fondest memories of third grade (in 1962) was our guest speakers, and the long discussions that followed, on the subject of human rights and world peace.

Along with my fond third grade memories of “Why are girls so icky?”

Nice to see after abusing that Jamesville-Dewitt student and being investigated by the NYS DOE for institutional racism ICSD has moved onto antisemitism.

Ithaca: the most enlightened city in the US…So long as everyone knows and stays in their place.

In the previous post I had questions that remain unanswered by the school.

Also, is there a video of this event showing the minor children involved?

This recruitment is a form of solicitation, is it not? Isn’t that illegal on school grounds?

Sometimes I wonder why I gave up a lucrative legal career to stay home and educate my child…

(No. That’s a lie. I’m grateful every day for the opportunity. 🙂 )

jeez turning the innocence of children into the innocence of muslims

Murderous sociopaths in our society find it very easy to learn that a soft voice and the word “peace” provide very effective camouflage for evil intent.

The palestinian supporters’ goal is “peace” through genocide. They should not be allowed in any of our schools until the Hamas Covenant, which advocates world conquest and genocide in the name of God, is repudiated.

I find it amazing that today’s cartoon Non-sequitur by Wiley Miller pretends that Donald Trump wants “probably to take us back to the time when only white male landowners could vote, slavery was legal, and when women were property.” This is choice, because if you substitute “Muslim” for white in that sentence, you have the explicit purpose of the Palestinians and other Islamists.

And yet, what Donald Trump says is characterized as “vile.”

Metaphysical justice would be where Bassem Tamimi saw his children convert to Judaism, join the IDF, and have 14 Jewish kids each.


“Regret” isn’t enough. What concrete steps and instructional efforts will be undertaken to balance against the propaganda that was unleashed on the third-graders? What are they going to do to provide appropriate information to the affected children to explain that the “lesson” didn’t tell the “whole story”? Most important, what are they going to do to monitor the teachers to be sure such discriminatory “teaching” doesn’t happen again?

“Human rights” can easily be taught as a developmentally appropriate, generalized concept that does not depend upon identifying specific groups in current events, either positively or negatively. Does one child have “human rights” that another child must recognize? Certainly. That teaching is not complex. And that doesn’t involve the complexity of adult lies, victimhood psychology, war, information manipulation, or any of the other adult interactions that make many world issues confusing and distressing for children. Do NYS standards require “teaching” children which groups are “approved” and which are not? Are children expected to take sides in world issues, according to NYS standards?

Tamimi is a known quantity. Whoever arranged for him to speak knew exactly what he would do. There are several adults in the top picture. Who are they? Why didn’t any of them intervene when “the speakers went beyond the original intent of the talk”? Are any of the children Jewish? The children may have been subjected to a brainwashing episode on the level of organized child abuse. Perhaps we need to acknowledge the level of indoctrination present in such an event.

    gibbie in reply to SueAnne. | September 25, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    No matter how good Superintendent Brown is (and I am astonished that he responded so well), his official duty is to make sure that no laws or regulations were violated. You can sense this from the language he uses in his response. He has zero authority to take any actions in the absence of a violation.

    This is what you get when you send your child to a government school. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

    Valerie in reply to SueAnne. | September 25, 2015 at 8:58 pm

    A parent can counter this. It goes like this:

    “There are people in this world who will lie to you. You should pay careful attention to what they say. If you pay attention, you will be able to detect both the falsehoods, and the underlying motivation. Then you will know what to think and do about what they say.”

[…] endorsed by the Ithaca City School District,” superintendent Luvelle Brown wrote in an email to Cornell University Prof. William Jacobson, who exposed Tamimi’s talk earlier this week on […]

I am almost stunned that the Superintendent had the courage and professionalism to make these statements. As far as those asking what else is being done. Please remember that you are dealing with teachers who are protected by unions, even a superintendent doesn’t take direct action against one without making very sure they have their ducks in a row. Also it is most likely that it takes the support of the school board for the any real action to take place.

The teachers will not be fired, just give up on that, won’t happen.

I work as a school nurse at a very good school with very good school administrators (i.e. we began our beginning of the year staff meeting with a short prayer by our superintendent :-), who unfortunately are ageing and nearing retirement (most likely at the end of this year) and I am very apprehensive about who we might get to replace them.

After reading much more information than I intended to about Mary Anne Grady Flores. Why was this serial law breaker in the classroom? What in the world could be the teacher’s justification?

Only evil people use 3rd graders as tools for terrorism.

[…] as props in propo videos shot in the Middle East – met with third graders at a public school in Ithaca, NY.  And in a heartwarming conclusion to his presentation, he urged the little moppets before him to […]