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Oakland Unified superintendent takes stand against planned teach-in on war in Gaza

PIX Now Afternoon Edition 12-4-23
PIX Now Afternoon Edition 12-4-23 08:31

Oakland Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell on Monday issued a statement reminding parents of an "unsanctioned teach-in" focusing on he Israel-Hamas conflict that goes against guidelines issued by the district.

Johnson-Trammell sent a letter out to parents Monday morning addressing the controversy stirred by the teach-in planned "by outside organizing in our schools this Wednesday." 

"I want to make clear that the District does not authorize this action," the letter from the superintendent read. "Furthermore, I want to make clear that the instructional materials developed and shared by the teach-in organizers are not aligned with the materials and guidance previously provided by our Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Sondra Aguilera."

ALSO READ: Planned teach-in at Oakland schools would present Palestinian perspective to students

The teach-in is being promoted in a social media video posted Nov. 26 that urges teachers to help students understand how "the forces of imperialism and capitalism motivate the decisions of global leaders." 

CBS News Bay Area obtained a Google document that details the proposed curriculum for Oakland students ages kindergarten through high school to learn about the centuries-old conflict. 

"Know that our outrage is noble and just. Our power is building and you can play a big role in that," stated a YouTube video that encourages teachers to participate.

It's not clear who created or published the video and exactly who is organizing the teach-in. How many teachers and OUSD campuses might be involved and what, if any, disciplinary actions the district might take against participating teachers is also unknown.

Administrators and some parents have been at odds with actions taken by the Oakland Education Association, the union that represents OUSD teachers, since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas. Early in November, the OEA posted an official statement of solidarity with Palestine that condemned the "genocidal and apartheid state of Israel."   

The union later walked back the statement. On Nov. 6, parents told KPIX the OEA passed a different resolution saying, "standing unequivocally in support of Palestinian liberation." The resolution went on to say OEA would distribute educational materials for teachers to use in classrooms to teach about Palestinian liberation.  

Later that week, Jewish parents, teachers and community leaders voiced their opposition to the resolution with a rally at Montclair Elementary School.

The letter sent to parents by Johnson-Trammell maintained the OUSD's "stance against antisemitic, anti-Israeli, Islamophobic, or anti-Palestinian prejudice or discrimination" and promised "immediate and decisive action" to address any issues that arise.

The letter also noted that the district shared the curriculum guidance with teachers on Oct. 31 in addition to outlining the emotional wellness resources and support available to teachers and staff. 

"I want to again make clear that our expectation is that all educators, in every classroom across the District, take seriously their responsibility to adhere to principles of education, and to keep their personal beliefs out of the classroom," the letter added.

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