Watch live: 3 public school district leaders face questions from Congress over anti-Semitic school policies

Leaders of some of America’s largest public school districts face questions from a House panel Wednesday about anti-Semitic incidents at their schools.

The Republican-led House Education Subcommittee has subpoenaed the superintendent of Berkeley Unified Schools Enikea Ford Mortel of California, New York City School Principal David Banks and Montgomery County School Board President Carla Silvestre of Maryland to testify.

Antisemitic incidents erupted in K-12 schools following Hamas’ brutality October 7 attack. “Jewish teachers, students and faculty are being denied a safe learning environment and district leaders’ inaction has forced them to fight anti-Semitic insurgents,” said Rep. Aaron Bean, Republican of Florida, who chairs the House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education, CBS News. said.

A senior committee aide told CBS News that the committee has not issued subpoenas, but it has asked school district leaders to voluntarily appear.

In a written statement shared with CBS News, the Berkeley Unified School District said Morthell “did not attempt” to testify but accepted an invitation to appear.

A Berkeley Schools spokesperson said, “We strive every day to ensure that our classrooms are respectful, humane and happy places for all our students, where they are welcomed, seen, respected and heard. We will continue to put our students first. Please take care of each other during this time.”

Each of the three school districts has large numbers of Jewish students. Each has faced complaints over its handling of anti-Semitic incidents.

The Anti-Defamation League and the Louis Brandeis Center made the submission A complaint against the Berkeley school systemSome of the children “suffered severe and persistent harassment and discrimination based on their Jewish ethnicity, shared ancestry, and national origin, and their reports to administrators were ignored for months.”

The Zionist Organization of America recently Filed a civil rights complaint Against Montgomery County Public Schools, it failed to properly handle anti-Semitic incidents in its schools. The school district did not respond to a request for comment about Silvestre or the board president’s planned testimony.

The Montgomery County Public School District’s publicly released policies on religious diversity state, “Each student has the right to his or her religious beliefs and practices, free from discrimination, bullying or harassment.”

New York City is also facing a civil rights complaint from the Brandeis Center, which accuses it of “failing to address persistent anti-Semitism against faculty.” When asked for comment about its principal’s planned testimony, a spokeswoman for the New York Public Schools referred CBS News to comments Banks made at a public event earlier this month.

“Segregation and intimidation are antithetical to public education,” Banks said. “We cannot allow hateful acts, whether physical or through anti-Semitic rhetoric.”

“Doing so causes more pain and raises more walls,” Banks adds. We must stand together against it.

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