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Schools Chancellor David Banks meets with students at Hillcrest High School to discuss outrage over teacher supporting Israel

Schools chancellor meets with students to discuss outrage over teacher supporting Israel
Schools chancellor meets with students to discuss outrage over teacher supporting Israel 02:21

NEW YORK -- Schools Chancellor David Banks met with students and teachers on Monday at a high school in Queens in an attempt to diffuse a troubling incident in which hundreds of kids ran through the halls to protest a teacher who had attended a pro-Israel rally.

Students at Hillcrest High streamed out of school supervised by dozens of police, school safety agents, school officials, and even Chancellor Banks, who attended the school.

It came after some 400 students supporting the Palestinian cause ran through the halls targeting a teacher who attended a pro-Israel rally and posted a picture on her Facebook page supporting the Jewish state.

"My message was simple. We are unequivocal. Violence, hate and disorder have no place in our schools. Antisemitism, Islamophobia and all forms of bigotry are simply unacceptable," Banks said.

"This is happening amidst an incredible rise in antisemitic incidents, essentially Jews in this country being blamed for what's happening in the Middle East," added Scott Richman, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League of New York and New Jersey.

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Banks spent hours at the school of 2,500, meeting with students and teachers to try to understand what had happened. Banks said the problem was that many young people get their information from social media and that what they were seeing were pictures of Palestinians being killed.

The chancellor also said it was irresponsible to lump all of the students together and say that they were radicalized, or terrorists or antisemitic.

"This notion that these kids are radicalized and antisemitic is the height of irresponsibility," Banks said.

Muhammad Ghazali, the president of the senior class, said that many of the students who were protesting didn't know what they were protesting about.

"They lack maturity. They were making this into like a fun event, in a sense," Ghazali said. "They didn't really think of it as a serious moment, or a moment to actually go out and protest. They really did it for their personal enjoyment and their personal pleasure. And that's what really caused the problem."

Student Khadija Ahmed added, "The message that we really wanted to get out there was that we wanted Palestine to be free, but the message got lost and lots of people were hurt mentally, like Muhammad said, and our teacher is in danger and I do think that she should be able to come back."

Others shared Ghazali and Ahmed's dismay over the protest.

"A lot of it was kids being kids as well, Tiktoking and dancing," Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said.

"It was supposed to be a peaceful protest when it turned into a riot because some people were there to skip class," another student said.

Chancellor Banks said the organizers of the protest were suspended, but he refused to say how many.

Banks said he would hold a Zoom meeting later in the week with every principal in the city to urge them to discuss the complex issues in the Middle East.

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