By: Cameron Arcand | The Center Square
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne criticized a pro-Palestine club meeting hosted by the UNICEF and Amnesty International chapters at Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale.
The meeting featured a presentation that painted a one-sided view of the conflict in the Middle East, including one slide that defined “apartheid” and said that “Jewish settlers were given land, but broke agreements and settled illegally” as Israel developed.
Jewish students at the school reportedly felt uncomfortable, and according to the Department of Education, there were no references made to the fact that Hamas attacked Israel first on Oct. 7 in the materials. The school has since communicated with parents in the aftermath.
“The materials presented to these students were profoundly antisemitic in particular and anti-American in general, in nature,” Horne said at a news conference Wednesday, warning other schools that this could happen on their campuses.
“Some of the material states that ‘Palestinians have been subject to killings, torture, rape, abuse, and more for over 75 years.’ This is a ‘blood libel’ similar to the blood libels used in the Middle Ages to get people to go out and kill random Jewish people,” he continued.
In terms of next steps, Horne said that it’s up for Scottsdale Unified School District to investigate and take a course of action, if any. The superintendent added that he does not having any authority when it comes to those decisions, but said he’s been in talks with the school district and held a news conference in order to warn other schools to do the same.
However, he said he would like to see the organizations no longer on campus.
Adam Brooks, a parent of a student at Desert Mountain High School, said he would like there to be a better response from the school.
“This is a really complex issue, and I recognize that. I believe there needs to be some accountability for the teacher advisor for not reviewing the material that’s being decimated,” he said. “I think, frankly, there should probably be some accountability for the principal for again, fostering this kind of environment on our school campuses.”
“And I think that if there’s a protest that happens like this that happens on school campus tomorrow, I think the students should be reprimanded in some way. Again, this is not about punishing kids […] I don’t any of the parents are after a witch hunt here for anybody’s head to roll or anything along those lines, but I do think there should be some consequences,” he added.
There is a flyer circulating for a pro-Palestine walk out at the school on Thursday, dubbed “Shut It Down! For Palestine.”
Scottsdale USD told The Center Square in a statement on Wednesday afternoon that they are conducting a review of what happened.
“We understand that concerns were raised following a joint club meeting, and we want to make it unequivocally clear that Scottsdale Unified School District stands firmly against anti-Semitism, discrimination, hate speech, and anything that diminishes the dignity of any human being based on their religion, race, ethnicity, gender, or any other factors. We are committed to ensuring that every student feels seen, heard, and valued for who they are,” the district said.
“Because of the law outlined above, the district would be violating its limited open forum rules if it were to disband the UNICEF and Amnesty International clubs or preclude students from meeting and presenting in their limited open forum. The district oversees the activity to prevent disruption to the educational environment but does not regulate the viewpoints of the student club members,” the statement continued. “The club sponsors cautioned students regarding some of the content in the slides, but they were also concerned about the prohibition on making decisions for the club.”