Open Letter About BLM Curriculum
Subject: Re: BLM Display and Curriculum
Superintendent Lussier: I respectfully take issue with your reply below, for two reasons. First, your “understanding” of the Marblehead High School situation is incorrect. Second, you completely failed to address my second comment about attempting to “distinguish any ‘confusion’ ” of the BLM Flag displays and curricula from the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric of what you have referred to as the “BLM political organization.”
I have verified that Marblehead High does not, as you state, display the Israeli flag as “one of many flags . . .reflecting the diverse backgrounds of [its] student body.” On the contrary, the Israeli flag is displayed as one of but four banners on the same wall in the same area as the BLM flag. This was done explicitly at Marblehead High in response to the expressed fears of students and parents arising out of the anti-Semitic rhetoric of the Black Lives Matter political organization. The Israeli flag is one of only four flags in a display that includes the flag of the United States, the banners of the BLM and LGBTQ movements and the State of Israel. Once again, I urge you to take the same step that was taken at Marblehead High and make good on your promise to combat what you noted as “the rise of antisemitism in recent years.” As in Marblehead, you can demonstrate that the symbols of both BLM and Israel can be linked and displayed together as a unifying measure.
This effort could be joined with your other commitments “to increase lessons on this topic [of anti-Semitism], and further strategize how we could continue to strengthen our approach” and at the same time to eliminate “confusion” of the BLM Flag displays and curricula from the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric of what you refer to as the “BLM political organization,” an organization that you assured the readers of the Townsman that WPS does not endorse. In my message I urged you to make “a clear and direct effort” to explain that distinction to the students in your charge. This would promote unity and avoid the impression that WPS picks “winners” (BLM) and “losers” (Jewish students). Linking the flags is but a symbolic, albeit important, step in this work. Following up that symbolism with the same kind of educational effort and curriculum guidance towards such unification that you have emphasized for BLM is what I asked for in my message. Sadly, you completely ignored that request in your response. We are left with a rather clear emphasis on the elevation of safety and justice concerns for certain groups, coupled with the failure to address the same concerns for others.
I urge you to reconsider your response and make good on your promise to take steps towards truly “strengthening our approach” to combating anti-Semitism. WPS states that is is committed to “inclusion.” The actions described above and in my earlier message would help to evidence that commitment in tangible as well as symbolic ways.
Best, Neal Glick.
On Monday, September 13, 2021, 07:47:14 AM EDT, David Lussier <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Thanks for your message. My understanding is that the Marblehead Administration supports the display of the Black Lives Matter flag for the same reasons that we do. The Administration has agreed to display the flag of Israel in the Marblehead High School cafeteria as part of an effort in which they intend to display many flags representing the diversity of their student body. This is identical to our practice at Wellesley High School, where our cafeteria is ringed with many flags, including the flag of Israel, reflecting the diverse backgrounds of our student body. Thanks again for reaching out.
David F. Lussier, Ed.D.
Wellesley Public Schools
40 Kingsbury Street
Wellesley, MA 02481
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On Wed, Sep 8, 2021 at 12:14 PM Neal Glick <email@example.com> wrote:
Dr. Lussier: It has come to my attention that the Marblehead public school administration has responded to communications from Jewish parents in Marblehead by agreeing to display the Israeli flag in conjunction with the BLM banner. This is in direct response to numerous parents and students who notified the school administration that they felt distressed and/or intimidated by the display of the BLM banner in the public schools, especially in light of the openly anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric of the national BLM leaders and the significant increase in hate crimes against Jews across the country in the wake of such rhetoric, an increase that continues. These feelings have been exacerbated by the adoption of the written “BLM Flag Plan” (complete with a well-defined curriculum) at Sprague (and presumably at other WPS schools) based directly (and in some cases word-for-word) on the curricula established by BLM in Schools and the Howard Zinn Foundation, both of which entities openly espouse anti-Israel and anti-Semitic (as well as anti-Catholic) rhetoric. As a Jewish resident of Wellesley and parent of a current elementary school child in WPS and a graduate of WHS, I can tell you that these concerns are very real and significant. When this was brought to your attention last Spring, you responded by acknowledging “the rise in antisemitism in recent years” and that you sought to “increase lessons on this topic, and further strategize how we could continue to strengthen our approach . . . That is work that continues.” Well, now you have a concrete example of just how that “increase,” “strategizing” and “strengthening” can be easily, quickly and directly accomplished. Display the Israeli flag alongside the BLM banner, just as Marblehead has done. Doing so now, during the 10-day period of the Jewish High Holidays, would be a terrific start and a meaningful symbolic effort. You could also modify the BLM Flag Plan at WPS to include explicit efforts to distinguish any “confusion” of the BLM Flag displays and curricula from the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric of what you have referred to as the “BLM political organization.” In this regard, I note that you stated in the Townsman that your efforts concerning the BLM flag displays at WPS are “not an endorsement of the of the political organization of the same name.” While it is unclear to me and many others how you could possibly square that circle or expect many or even most pre-K through 12 students to make that leap in conceptual gymnastics, a clear and direct effort to explain the distinction with regard to anti-Semitism to students would be a welcome first step. Will you take these easy and important steps? Failing to do so will be a further reinforcement of the notion that only “certain lives matter,” and that Jewish lives are not in that preferred group. I look forward to your response. Sincerely, Neal B. Glick89 River Street