Farmington school officials are looking into comments made by a high school history teacher about Israel and Palestine.
A Muslim civil rights group says the teacher’s comments were inappropriate and anti-Palestinian.
The Israel-Hamas War is hitting home for many in the Farmington Valley, in particular some students at Farmington High School.
“Obviously what’s happening overseas is hard for everybody. Nobody wants war. Nobody wants anyone to get hurt,” Khamis Abu-Hassaballah, a Farmington Muslim leader said.
But some students felt hurt by a history teacher’s comments about Israel and Palestine.
In an audio clip obtained by the Connecticut chapter of the Council for American Islamic Relations, the teacher appears to say: “70% of Palestinian land is located in the modern country of Jordan. A tiny piece of it is in Israel. So, are we going to protest against Jordan?”
The clip continues later on with the teacher reportedly comparing the biblical conflict between the Hebrews and the Philistines to the current conflict. Abu-Hassaballah says the statements are disappointing and make some Arab students feel unsafe.
“You are an educator, not an activist. Your job is to enable students to ask questions, question what you say and accept their position if it happens to differ from your position,” he said.
Anat Biletzki, an Israeli philosophy professor at Quinnipiac University, believes what the teacher reportedly said was ignorant, especially speaking about history.
“The presumption that you can point to that tribe, the Philistines and run 3,000 years and say that’s the Palestinians of today, that’s making mockery of history, geography,” she said.
Farmington Public Schools says the district is reviewing the concerns made from CAIR-CT, saying in part:
“As an inclusive community, we encourage members of our school community to bring concerns forward as we model and live our core beliefs and equity framework in all aspects of our daily work with students, families and our community.”
Connecticut Education Association President Kate Dias in a statement said teachers and students should feel safe discussing world affairs, saying in part:
“Often these discussions require us to examine multiple viewpoints, and taking these conversations out of context could lead to misunderstandings and even more negative behavior against teachers and students.”
Abu-Hassaballah says he and local parents had a productive and positive conversation with the principal of Farmington High School Wednesday and felt heard.
“We have a path forward to work together to ensure all of our students feel safe and welcomed in Farmington schools,” he said.