A massive walkout in New York schools is planned for today in support of a ceasefire in Gaza. Chancellor David Banks is being accused of threatening teachers about the protest and warning that they may be subject to discipline in some circumstances. The school system appears in a muddle given its past support for walkouts. My interest in the controversy is not the merits of the ceasefire but the incomprehensible policy being enforced by school officials in choosing what protests they will support.
A flyer for the event advertised “100+ high schools and school communities” will be joining the mass demonstration with the participation of many teachers.
I previously criticized the school system for its biased approach toward supporting certain protests while opposing others. For example, the New York school system previously gave 1.1 million students leave to join protests on climate change. At the time, I asked if the school officials would show equal support for other protests or whether they were simply encouraging protests that they supported.
The response to this protest is clearly different from the enthusiastic support given past protests. Banks sent a warning to teachers who will be joining this protest that they can face discipline if it “disrupts … the school environment.” He also noted that “when speech and action — even on one’s personal time — undermines the mission or core functions of NYCPS, we will review and take appropriate action on a case-by-case basis.”
While the Education Department insisted that the warning was not directed at this protest, Tajh Sutton, a Brooklyn parent and president of Community Education Council 14, which is co-sponsoring the Thursday walkout, said that it is clear that the warning was meant to discourage teachers on the eve of the walkout.
The different treatment given protests raises concerns over content-based discrimination. It is reminiscent of the approach of National Public Radio.
NPR announced previously that reporters could participate in activities that advocate for “freedom and dignity of human beings” on social media and in real life. The rule states in part:
“NPR editorial staff may express support for democratic, civic values that are core to NPR’s work, such as, but not limited to: the freedom and dignity of human beings, the rights of a free and independent press, the right to thrive in society without facing discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, disability, or religion.”
The rule itself shows how impressionistic and unprofessional media has become in the woke era. NPR does not try to define what causes constitute advocacy for the “freedom and dignity of human beings.” How about climate change and environmental protection? Would it be prohibited to protest for a forest but okay if it is framed as “environmental justice”?
NPR seems to intentionally keep such questions vague while only citing such good causes as Black Lives Matter and gay rights:
“Is it OK to march in a demonstration and say, ‘Black lives matter’? What about a Pride parade? In theory, the answer today is, “Yes.” But in practice, NPR journalists will have to discuss specific decisions with their bosses, who in turn will have to ask a lot of questions.”
So the editors will have the power to choose between acceptable and unacceptable causes.
The New York school system seems to apply the same approach in actively supporting some walkouts while discouraging others.