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Superintendent Says District Has ‘No Intention’ to Remove Any ‘Narrative’ from Anti-Israel Curriculum

Santa Ana Unified School District Superintendent Jerry Almendarez said during a board meeting Tuesday that any “narrative” in the new ethnic studies curriculum would not change despite protests from Jewish groups.
Screenshot/Santa Ana Unified School District/YouTube
Screenshot/Santa Ana Unified School District/YouTube

By: Kate Anderson, Daily Caller News Foundation

Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD) Superintendent Jerry Almendarez said Tuesday that the board would not be removing any “narrative” from its new ethnic studies curriculum, despite complaints of its anti-Israel rhetoric.

SAUSD approved two courses, “Ethnic Studies: World Geography” and “Ethnic Studies World Histories” in April, which have been criticized for promoting the idea that Israel is a “colonial empire” and guilty of the “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians. The SAUSD board held a regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, and after giving out several end-of-the-year awards to faculty and students, Almendarez addressed concerns about the recently passed ethnic studies curriculum, according to recordings of the meeting on the district’s YouTube account.

“First I want to address some comments and concerns regarding our newly adopted ethnic studies curriculum,” Armendarez said. “We recognize as a district that this complex content requires careful consideration and should be viewed through multiple perspectives. Comments have been shared with the district that we are looking to eliminate certain perspectives and narratives from our curriculum. I want the public to know that the district has no intentions of removing any narrative from the curriculum that will be developed in the future. Our intent is to listen to all sides, to learn from all sides, and to approach this in a balanced manner.”

Several public commenters thanked the board for sticking with the curriculum, with one saying that it was “historically accurate and morally correct.” Another commenter identified himself as a Ph.D. student at the University of California Davis, saying that Palestinians were “forced into exile” by Israel while accusing the board of being too “cowardly” to stand up to the Zionist movement if they decided to back down from the curriculum.

Prior to the meeting, several groups, including the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM), urged district members to show up and voice support for the curriculum. CAIR’s Los Angeles chapter put out a press release on May 19, arguing that Israel’s “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians is a “factual description” of the Jewish state’s handling of the situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

PYM argued in an Instagram post on Tuesday that groups such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) were trying to erase “any mention of Palestinians from the curriculum entirely.”

“The Santa Ana Unified School District has come under pressure from Zionists to remove its comprehensive Palestinian history section from its Ethnic Studies program,” the group wrote in the post’s caption.”We are asking community members to raise the call against this clear attempt to remove both Palestine and Ethnic Studies more broadly from our school curriculums.

The ethnic studies would have students read articles and watch videos describing Israel as an apartheid state, while claiming that the Jews have committed “war crimes” against Palestinians, according to the curriculum. Students would be asked questions such as how “the settlement of Israelis after WWII changed … the sovereignty of Palestinians over time” and how the Israeli “blockade” of Gaza “affect[s] the livelihoods of the Palestinians in that region?”

The ADL chapter in Orange County/Long Beach said earlier this month that it was “profoundly disappointed” by an “extremely biased and one-sided view of Israel.” Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs, an antisemitism watchdog organization, said that the school’s ethnic studies course would “erase 3,000 years of Jewish history and connection to Israel” and “exclude the history of Jewish refugees who fled or were expelled from Arab states and Iran.”

A district spokesperson told the Daily Caller News Foundation that it was working with “representatives from Jewish, Palestinian [and] Muslim” communities to “refine” the curriculum.

“The goal is to provide balanced, multiple perspectives from all groups involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the spokesperson said. “The District itself has no political position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, just like the District would not take a political position on other global conflicts. However, we do understand that members in our community, including our students and families, share strong opinions on issues such as these. We will always encourage open and respectful dialogue in our schools as part of our effort to provide a well-rounded education.”

Related Story: California School District Approves Curriculum Accusing Israel of ‘Ethnic Cleansing,’ ‘War Crimes’

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