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Philly schools censored a podcast about Palestinian resistance art because of complaints of antisemitism. Now, there's pushback

Kristen A. Graham, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in News & Features

Northeast’s final Black History Month assembly happened Thursday morning, without the video.

The student hosts of the assembly — the video’s creators — made a speech about the video’s removal and censorship at the point in the program where the video was shown in the first assembly. The students then continued with the program.

Shortly after the assembly, the Jewish family association sent an email to Superintendent Tony B. Watlington Sr. and school board members, saying that Ridgeway “had students stage a protest, calling out ‘white teachers’ (Jewish) for having the ‘truth’ removed from the program.”

Ridgeway said she had no idea the students were planning to speak about the video, and did not direct them to do anything.

Members of the Jewish family organization, which has partnered with the regional Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Federation, told Watlington and the board that Ridgeway “cannot continue to incite violence and indoctrination against Jewish students and faculty,” a charge that Ridgeway denies.

What’s next?

With word of the Northeast incident spreading on social media, some people upset at the video’s removal have drafted letters to read to the school board. Others plan to testify at the board meeting scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

 

Andrew Saltz, a teacher at Paul Robeson High School, wrote to the board to implore they reverse course and apologize to the affected students.

Saltz, who is Jewish, said he was “ashamed” that a Jewish colleague engineered the removal of students’ project.

“I hope Mrs. Ridgeway’s class understands there are many Jews who may agree or disagree with their idea, but support their right to express themselves in the classroom.”

Much about the situation alarms Ridgeway, who plans to attend Thursday’s board meeting. It’s necessary, she said, to fight censorship which, she said, “is detrimental to our Palestinian students, who are not feeling heard, not feeling seen. The district is capitulating to outside people and allowing teachers who are really just centering themselves to dictate, and silencing children that are doing amazing work.”

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©2024 The Philadelphia Inquirer. Visit inquirer.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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