February 24, 2024

The Los Angeles charter school that stirred controversy at the synagogue where it is housed after first-grade teachers taught lessons about “the genocide of Palestine” announced steps on Friday to “repair this harm.” Two teachers have been removed from the school and the principal has been placed on leave at Citizens of the World Charter School-East Valley, announced Melissa Kaplan, the school network’s executive director, at a press conference held outside Adat Ari El synagogue. Hye-Won Gehring, the school’s principal, had relayed complaints from her staff to the synagogue’s rabbi about Israeli flags that were hung up on the campus after Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel, according to Kaplan and Brian Schuldenfrei, Adat Ari El’s senior rabbi. Kaplan said Gehring would be going on a two-week leave to “focus on learning how to combat antisemitism and engage in sensitivity training to learn from this experience.” Gehring had sent an email to Schuldenfrei on October 16 asking how long the flags would be up, according to the rabbi. Kaplan called the question “insensitive and inappropriate,” and Schuldenfrei recounted that he had told Gehring her email was “offensive.” During his remarks, Schuldenfrei shared the sequence of events that occurred at the school, saying that he hopes the incident can be “an educational moment.” Schuldenfrei questioned why the content of the lessons was not reviewed, saying that the teachers “weaponized their role as educators to indoctrinate the youngest of children with a radical and hateful agenda.” Schuldenfrei said he is comfortable with the first steps the school is taking and hopes his community is, too. He also said he hopes this debacle does not dissuade future collaborations between Jewish and non-Jewish groups. The final speaker at the press conference was Nick Melvoin, a school board member for the Los Angeles Unified School District and a Democratic candidate for Congress who is running for the district that Adam Schiff currently represents. Melvoin commended the school for its efforts to respond to the incident and added that he will be bringing a policy package to the district’s board of education to address concerns of bias and antisemitism.