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Eastern Regional School Supt. for Allowing Pro Palestinian Walkout During School Hours

Robert S. Cloutier Superintendent

Eastern Camden County Regional School District

1401 Laurel Oak Road

Voorhees, NJ 08043-4304

 

Dear Superintendent Cloutier, Screenshot 2024-04-23 at 16.19.52

We are outraged by the decision of Eastern High School to permit a “Pro-Palestinian” walkout during school hours and call upon you to cancel this event. The student walkout is an intentional effort to create a hostile and isolating environment for Jewish students, the majority of whom support Israel as an integral part of their identity. Your administration’s failure to recognize—and, instead, to actively promote—this hostility ignores the consequent danger it poses to all its students. We note that the October 10th walkout at Eastern High School, which came soon after the horrific slaughter and kidnapping of innocent Israeli citizens by a terrorist organization, was specifically dedicated to the “memory of all innocent lives lost.” It was not a public challenge to the residents of Gaza. Here, the planned “Pro-Palestinian” walkout is fueled by anti-Israeli rhetoric which is unacceptable for your school to endorse. To do so during the holy days of Passover makes your decision even more intolerable.

Like the misguided decisions of administrators at the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, and other educational institutions trying to give “another point of view” in the name of free speech, your decision carelessly ignores the fact that you are unnecessarily causing fear and placing students in harm’s way. We believe that our community should be free of hate wherever it festers itself and your decisions are creating a nurturing place for it in Voorhees Township.

Not all speech is protected speech. Rhetoric intended to incite violence against a specific person or group is prohibited under constitutional law. Pro-Palestinian protests typically include chants like “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which is a call for genocide of all Jews in the State of Israel and which, just last week, has been officially identified by Congress as an antisemitic statement. You have opened a door in allowing this walkout to occur, knowing that you cannot thereafter police the anti-Israel and antisemitic rhetoric that will undoubtedly follow.

 

Camden County has adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)

Definition of antisemitism. Under IHRA, denying Jews the right to self-determination in their homeland, e.g. by claiming that the existence of the State of Israel is a racist endeavor, is antisemitic. The flyer for this event expressly states “Free Gaza,” a call for the elimination of Israel and these rallies typically—and falsely—accuse Israel of genocide and apartheid, statements which are clearly antisemitic under IHRA. In addition, applying a double standard to Israel by requiring a behavior not expected or demanded of any other government is antisemitic under IHRA.The flyer reads “Stop Bombing Gaza” and mentions standing up for “basic human rights,” but fails to address drones and missiles sent daily into Israel by Hamas and Hezbollah and does not condemn similar military actions or human rights in any other conflict in the world.

 

This event displays a failure to uphold your responsibilities under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires consideration of the IHRA Definition in identifying antisemitism. As you are no doubt aware, a Title VI action could jeopardize funding for Eastern High School. By allowing this event you are failing to provide the safety promised to all students in your own mission statement, as well as several of your own policies.

In short, we find your decision to permit this event at all, but especially during the school day, to be abhorrent. We condemn your decision, and we plan to publicly denounce it unless it is canceled. Again, we have taken a proactive stance against hate and we believe this event will not only embolden and normalize it, but it will be a determinant to our community.

 

Very truly yours,

Jeffrey L. Nash, Camden County Commissioner

Melinda Kane, Camden County Commissioner

cc:

Principal, Dr. Robert M. Tull Jr.

Superintendent of Camden County Schools Carmen Rodriguez

Congressman Donald Norcross

Senator James Beach

Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald

Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt

Commissioner Director Louis Cappelli Jr.

Mayor Michael R. Mignogna

Deputy Mayor Jason Ravitz

Committeeman Harry Platt

Committeewoman Michelle Nocito

Committeewoman Jacklyn Fetbroyt

School Board President Jude J. Brown

Jennifer Weiss

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