NEWTON, Mass. — The Newton Public Schools school committee called a meeting Tuesday night to discuss a petition that is calling for total transparency at Newton North and Newton South high schools when it comes to history and social studies classes, as well as all topics related to conflicts in the Middle East.
The controversy stems over lessons related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that are considered to be anti-Semitic and anti-Israel. Some people are so upset, they want Newton superintendent David Fleishman to be fired.
Parents, former students and local leaders spoke at the meeting to defend Newton high school teachers and their curriculum.
"As a parent, resident, taxpayer, rabbi and Jewish member of this community, I do not believe the curriculum nor the faculty of our schools promote anti-Semitism (or) anti-Israel messages," said Rabbi Eric Gurvis.
The school district says high school teachers in Newton have been attacked online in recent months by the nonprofit Americans for Peace & Tolerance.
"(I received) angry, violent, vile messages on social media and in my school email," said Newton North history teacher David Bedar, one of the targets of the attacks.
Fleishman said one of the teaching tools that was criticized was a film from the Palestinian Film Festival that was shown last school year.
"It's the Middle East curriculum, and it's really hard to teach," Fleishman said.
Fleishman said the goal of teachers should be to challenge students and to discuss different points of view, while making sure every student feels safe and that their voice is heard.
The school committee unanimously voted "no" or "no need for action" to all of the items on the petition.