NYC teachers cautioned about political speech with student walkout over Gaza cease-fire planned

Thursday's walkout in New York City appears to be part of a nationwide protest.

November 9, 2023, 12:19 PM

With a walkout on Thursday planned by some students and maybe even staff at some city schools to call for a cease-fire in Gaza, New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks warned teachers about violating Education Department rules on political speech.

Banks sent the email to staff Wednesday, warning that out-of-school activity, "even on one's personal time," can violate city rules if it "disrupts … the school environment."

"All employees should ensure that expressions of their personal political views are kept separate from their NYCPS job," Banks' email reads in part, referring to New York City Public Schools. "School leaders, teachers, and other school staff should not express their personal views about political matters during the school day, while on school grounds, or while working at school events, and it is critical that they set aside their personal views during class discussions about current events," Banks' email reads in part.

"When speech and action — even on one's personal time — undermines the mission or core functions of NYCPS, we will review and take appropriate action on a case-by-case basis," Banks noted in the email.

Protests have erupted across the world following Hamas' surprise terrorist attack on Israel on Oct. 7 and the military's response by Israel inside Gaza.

Demonstrators hold Palestinian flags as they march through Brooklyn Bridge during a rally in support of Palestinians in New York City on Nov. 7, 2023.
Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images

One flyer for Thursday's cease-fire protest claims "100+ high schools and school communities" are planning to walk out and join a 3 p.m. rally in Bryant Park, which is located in Midtown Manhattan.

Event organizers asked participants to call congressional representatives and encouraged parent groups to draft resolutions calling for a cease-fire. They include some teacher groups, parent organizations and youth activists.

A "toolkit" from the event organizers provided students with guidance on leading walkouts. Prior to leaving their respective schools, students are asked to assess how they can "convince" their administrators to support the walkouts and take note of whether there will be "counter protestors" at their schools.

A list of "demands" in a "toolkit" states students are looking to "break the silence on Palestine" at city schools and "stand against the brutal bombardment of besieged Gaza."

In Israel, at least 1,400 people have been killed and 6,900 others have been injured since Oct. 7, according to Israeli officials. In the neighboring Gaza Strip, at least 10,812 people have been killed and 26,905 have been injured, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. Those numbers have not been independently verified.

City University of New York (CUNY) students and other supporters of Palestine hold a rally in front of the Chancellor's office in midtown Manhattan on Nov. 2, 2023 in New York City.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

More than a month since the war began, Israeli officials say 240 hostages are still being held in Gaza.

Thursday's walkout in New York City appears to be part of a nationwide "Shutdown for Palestine" protest.

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