South Orange-Maplewood School Board Votes to Sever Ties with MapSO Freedom School Amid Accusations of Anti-Semitic Rhetoric

A recent South Orange-Maplewood School Board meeting ignited impassioned debate over the board’s relationship with the MapSO Freedom School, leading to a vote to sever ties with the organization’s liaison amid accusations of promoting anti-Semitic rhetoric. The meeting was dominated by public commentary expressing a variety of viewpoints on the MapSO Freedom School’s presence in the district and its alleged promotion of biased perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The board meeting began with an acknowledgment of the high attendance, with over 80 people registered for public speaks. The high participation prompted the board to move up public speaks in the agenda. The board president, Kaitlin Wittleder, issued an apology for supporting the MapSO Freedom School liaison, emphasizing the importance of maintaining apolitical leadership within the school district. This led to discussions about discontinuing the liaison relationship, given the organization’s alleged involvement in political advocacy work.

The public comment period witnessed community members raising concerns about MapSO Freedom School’s alleged anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric. Multiple individuals accused the school of spreading hate and misinformation about Israel, with some suggesting that the group’s actions threatened the harmony and safety of the community. The overwhelming sentiment expressed during the public comment period was a call for the Board to take decisive action in response to these concerns.

However, the debate was not one-sided. Several community members defended the MapSO Freedom School, emphasizing the importance of distinguishing legitimate criticism of Israel from anti-Semitism. They highlighted the organization’s work in creating safe spaces for black and brown students and its role in addressing racial violence and fostering critical thinking skills among students.

Despite the range of viewpoints, the South Orange-Maplewood School Board voted to terminate the liaison with the MapSO Freedom School.

In addition to the MapSO Freedom School controversy, the meeting also featured discussions on policy changes and district construction projects. Policies 5120 and 5124 sparked debates over language changes and their potential impact on students’ access to transportation. Concerns were expressed about the lack of administrative input and whether the policies had undergone the proper review process.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

Superintendent:
Dr. Ronald G. Taylor
School Board Officials:
Kaitlin Wittleder, Elissa Malespina, Nubia DuVall Wilson, Arun Vadlamani, Bill Gifford, Courtney Winkfield, Johanna Wright, Regina Eckert, Qawi Telesford, Gwyneth Brown, Asa Glassman, Dr. Kevin Gilbert (Asst., Supt., Access & Equity District Title IX Coordinator and District HIB Coordinator), Robin Curry (Confidential Secretary to the Asst. Supt., Access & Equity)

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