Don’t let a Brooklyn principal discriminate against the Jewish state and single out his Zionist teachers.
At Brooklyn’s William Alexander Middle School 51, teachers are allowed to wear t-shirts expressing support for political causes, including Black Lives Matter and women’s rights.
But when Jeff Levy, who has been teaching English as a Second Language for 20 years, showed up wearing a gray t-shirt with an Israeli flag and the words, “Proud Zionist,” he learned that free speech only goes so far.
Even worse, it doesn’t look likely the Department of Education will back a discrimination complaint that Levy filed in September.
“This year, a few weeks into the school year, a student must’ve complained to the principal that he didn’t like my t-shirt. And the principal pulled me in, and it’s a new principal,” Levy told Americans Against Antisemitism. “He told me ‘Zionism involves the retaking of Palestinian land,’ and in his words, is ‘offensive.'”
Principal Neal Singh added that MS 51 students and staff had also complained about Levy’s “Back the Blue” t-shirt expressing solidarity with the police.
Levy filed a complaint on Sept. 30 with the city Department of Education’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity. The New York Post saw a copy of the complaint.
“Singh’s definition of politically explosive attire appears limited to Jews only,” the complaint said.
“None of my attire, actions or beliefs endanger the emotional or physical safety of students or staff, which Singh accused me of. … I have conducted myself professionally and have always respected the beliefs of all while doing my job neutrally and without bias. … His attempt to threaten and intimidate me is antisemitic.”
Unfortunately, a statement sent by the city Department of Education to the Post doesn’t bode well for Levy’s complaint.
“Schools are not public forums for advancing personal political views, and per Department of Education regulations, employees are prohibited from using schools for the purpose of political expression,” said DOE spokeswoman Katie O’Hanlon.
“This principal’s request followed complaints from students and staff and is consistent with policies around political neutrality in schools,” she added.
If that’s the case, then Singh can’t allow teachers to wear t-shirts supporting Black Lives Matter or feminism either. That’s not an unreasonable outcome if the t-shirts are disruptive or distracting.
However, local Jewish activist and former state lawmaker Dov Hikind, founder of Americans Against Antisemitism, told Hamodia there was “nothing we could find in the chancellor regulations that prevented him from [wearing the shirt]. Nothing in the regulations indicated this isn’t okay.”
The Department’s statement coupled with Singh’s silence doesn’t give us confidence that Jeff Levy will be treated fairly. Either Singh has to allow his teachers to express all political expressions or none at all. Anything else is a terrible lesson for the 1,100 students of William Alexander Middle School 51.
Demand That Meisa Ross Porter, Chancellor of the NYC Dept of Education, Intervene!
Email the chancellor: email@example.com
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