⚫ A student-organized pro-Palestinian rally takes place at Teaneck High School

⚫ Participants will receive a zero for missed classwork

⚫ A dozen rabbis urged the district to stop the rally because of "overt antisemitism"

TEANECK — Tensions are running high as students at Teaneck High School plan a walkout Wednesday afternoon in support of Palestine.

The walkout has the support of the school superintendent.

About 15,000 out of over 37,000 residents of Teaneck are Jewish, according to the Berman Jewish Databank.

The student protest is planned for the end of the school day at approximately 1:30 p.m.

Students will gather on the football field to “march, chant and give speeches” then march to Teaneck’s Municipal Hall, according to a leaflet. While promotional material states that the demonstration is "approved," organizer Maryam Marey told NorthJersey.com that students who participate will be marked as having an unexcused absence.

Marey said while there is violence on both sides in the Israel-Hamas war, the protest is "about standing with the oppressed people." The leaflet urges people not to "stand silent during genocide."

'Genocidal chants'

The Bergen County Jewish Action Committee held a rally Tuesday night near Municipal Hall to protest the rally being held on school property during school hours.

Teaneck Councilwoman Hillary Goldberg told the crowd she did not feel safe sending her son to the school and felt fear when a pro-Palestinian rally chanted "from the river to sea, Palestine will be free."

"I cannot image what our Jewish students and faculty will feel as they hear the same genocidal chant coming out of the mouths of their peers and students Tuesday," Goldberg said.

A letter signed by a  dozen rabbis demanded that Superintendent Andre Spencer "prevent this grotesque and overt antisemitism in public school."

The right to peaceful protest

Spencer in a letter to the community said that "it is essential to recognize that our scholars have the First Amendment right to express themselves, even if no board action is taken.” He asked everyone to "engage with a listening ear" and said only students and staff are allowed on school grounds.

In a second letter sent Tuesday, Spencer said the district respects students' right to engage in peaceful protest but does not endorse walkouts or messages and confirmed that participants would be graded for missing class.

"Consistent with the district's intolerance of any type of bigotry, including antisemitism or Islamophobia, the demonstration will be peaceful. We want every scholar to feel safe, secure and welcome in all of our schools," Spence's letter says.

The superintendent warned that the school cannot provide supervision to any student who leaves school property.

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