In a recent West Orange School Board meeting, community members raised concerns regarding the district’s treatment of students involved in pro-Palestinian protests. Speakers, including a representative from the Council on American Islamic Relations, voiced support for students’ rights and criticized alleged intimidating tactics and censorship by the board. Concerns were raised about the safety of Muslim students and remarks by a board member suggesting negative views of Palestinians.
Ali Algera, a representative from the Council on American Islamic Relations, urged the board to support students’ rights to express their opinions and protect them from online harassment. Other speakers expressed concern for the safety of Muslim students in the community and criticized board member Robert Ivker for comments that they suggested implied Palestinians were evil
One resident criticized the board, accusing them of dismissing the students’ intelligence and undermining their ability to make decisions. She accused the board of lying and stated that she no longer felt safe with them in charge. Another speaker highlighted the importance of understanding the historical context of the phrase “From the River to the Sea” and its significance to Palestinians. She emphasized the need to include perspectives from Palestinian groups and criticized focusing on Hamas without considering broader liberationist contexts.
Several individuals highlighted alleged discrepancies in treatment between students expressing support for Palestine and those wearing blue and white in solidarity with Israel. They argued that students supporting Palestine faced harassment and threats, while others did not face similar consequences.
The discussions also extended to broader issues of diversity and inclusion within the district. Community members emphasized the need for respectful conversations and healing as a community. They called for more education and dialogue between different cultures to promote unity and suggested bringing in educators to help learn about different cultures.
In response to the concerns raised, Superintendent Hayden Moore reiterated the school’s commitment to providing a safe and inclusive environment for students of all backgrounds. He stressed the need for productive and peaceful change while ensuring the safety of all students.
Alongside the discussions on student protests and diversity, other topics were addressed during the meeting. The board focused on using data to inform intervention services provided to students, such as academic support teachers pushing into classrooms and providing tiered interventions. Superintendent Moore presented data on student performance in math and science, highlighting growth in math proficiency but a decline in geometry.
The meeting also discussed the recently revised New Jersey student learning standards for English Language Arts (ELA). The district plans to rewrite the ELA curriculum to align with the new standards and has formed an ELA committee to evaluate the program and provide professional development. They have established a literacy academy to offer after-school sessions for teachers.
In terms of math performance, the district recognizes the need for improvement in middle school math and Algebra 1. Efforts are being made to improve performance through targeted professional development, data analysis, and support for students in advanced math classes.