How parents and students reacted to their school leaders testifying


Tim O’Brien, the father of a senior at Berkeley High School in California and a supporter of the Palestinian cause, watched the congressional hearing on antisemitism on Wednesday involving the school district’s superintendent, Enikia Ford Morthel.
Republican lawmakers accused the leaders of school districts in Berkeley, New York City and Montgomery County, Md., of responding inadequately to antisemitism in public schools while the administrators fiercely defended themselves and their policies.
Afterward, local reaction to the hearing seemed to hinge on one’s views going in, with few minds changed and some questioning whether the proceeding had been worth the time.
Mr. O’Brien, who watched the hearing over coffee and muffins with about 10 other pro-Palestinian parents in a classroom at the University of California, Berkeley, disapproved of the hearing in general but thought Ms. Ford Morthel had weathered it well.
“It was like the Salem witch trials,” he said, adding that the hearings were a distraction from the devastation in Gaza.
But he said it was right for educators to teach their students about the war with Israel and the importance of Palestinian liberation.
And he thought Ms. Ford Morthel had conveyed that message effectively.
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Father of a senior at Berkeley High School in California and proponent of the Palestinian cause, Tim O’Brien, observed the congressional hearing on antisemitism on Wednesday that featured Enikia Ford Morthel, the superintendent of the school district. He considered her to be “a rock star.”. “.

When Jewish Berkeley High parent Ilana Pearlman witnessed the same testimony in person three thousand miles away on Capitol Hill, she was astounded by what she heard, especially when Ms. Ford Morthel stated that antisemitism is “not pervasive” in the district.

Republicans in Congress charged that Berkeley, New York City, and Montgomery County, Maryland, school district administrators had not done enough to combat antisemitism in public schools, despite the administrators’ vehement defense of their positions and protocols. Following the hearing, opinions in the community seemed to be predicated on one’s initial beliefs; few people’s opinions were altered, and some people questioned whether the proceedings had been worthwhile.

Alright, Mr. O’Brien, who observed the hearing with ten or so other pro-Palestinian parents in a University of California, Berkeley classroom over coffee and muffins, thought Ms. Ford Morthel had handled it well despite her general disapproval of the hearing.

He compared the proceedings to the Salem witch trials and said they served as a diversion from the destruction occurring in Gaza. However, he asserted that it was appropriate for educators to discuss the war with Israel and the significance of the liberation of Palestine with their students. He also believed that Ms. Ford Morthel had done a good job of communicating that point.

“She did not let us down; in that kind of toxic environment, we were all hoping that her personality, charm, compassion, and intelligence would somehow come through,” he admitted.

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