Princeton school district ‘taking a stand against antisemitism’

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The Princeton Public Schools is gearing up to tackle antisemitism in the district through education and by encouraging students to report antisemitic incidents, in the wake of rising antisemitism and Jew-hatred nationwide.

Parents raised the issue of antisemitism in a letter to administrators in November 2023. The topic has been discussed by the school board’s Student Achievement Committee several times since November.

The signers of the Nov. 1, 2023 letter wrote that the unprecedented rise in antisemitism has made them fearful, and the school district is in a prime position to ensure that students lead lives of purpose and not hate.

The parents also urged school district officials to create a unit on antisemitism in the required “Pathways to Racial Literacy” course at Princeton Middle School and Princeton High School.

Now, school district officials are moving forward with plans to educate students, staff and administrators about antisemitism and to encourage students to report antisemitic incidents at school.

Interim Superintendent of Schools Kathie Foster acknowledged antisemitism in the school district and outlined how it will be handled at the school board’s April 30 meeting.

“In public and private meetings with our district leadership, we have acknowledged the need to reinforce the tenet that antisemitism will not be tolerated in our district,” Foster said.

“If we are to advocate for the safety of our students, families and communities, we cannot be silent. Therefore, tonight (April 30), we are publicly committing to taking a stand against antisemitism,” she said.

One of the first steps to be taken is to educate students, staff and administrators about antisemitism. This includes a review of the district’s curriculum and professional development opportunities for teachers.

The school district will continue to enforce its ban against harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB) to protect students’ rights, Foster said. It will also expand and supplement its vigilance when incidents occur and are not reported as HIB incidents.

School district officials will continue to review the district’s policies around students and social media in order to create clear boundaries, she said.

“As we cultivate awareness around antisemitism, we will be alert to antisemitism in all its forms, including prejudiced or stereotyped views about Jews,” Foster said.

Antisemitism is defined as a certain perception expressed as hatred toward Jews, and words, gestures or actions depicting hatred or contempt for Jews, the Jewish community or Jewish institutions.

“Rhetorical and physical manifestations of hatred directed toward Jewish individuals and/or their property, Jewish community institutions and religious facilities also are examples of antisemitism,” she said.

“While the school district cannot solve geopolitical issues, it can commit to ensuring that all students feel safe and welcomed in school.”

Respect for one group translates into respect for all groups. Bias, prejudice and hate against any one group fails everyone – as individuals and as part of the larger community, Foster said.

“Every student in the Princeton Public Schools will be known, connected, engaged and supported, and will encounter a fair, affirming schooling experience at every stage,” she said.

“This is ongoing work, and we are in it for the long haul.”