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City Schools of Decatur investigates ‘unauthorized communication’ about Israel and Gaza

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City Schools of Decatur investigates ‘unauthorized communication’ about Israel and Gaza

Elizabeth Wilson School Support Center, City Schools of Decatur. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Decatur, GA — An email sent to central office staff at City Schools of Decatur on Oct. 26 regarding Israel and Gaza has been disavowed by school district leaders.

The email included an attachment titled, “Resources for Learning & Actions to Support Gaza” and says it was, “Compiled by a queer collective of Jews, Palestinians, and allies in Atlanta.”

The email was sent by a staffer to other staff members but was not an official communication from City Schools of Decatur, a spokesperson for the district said.

“This morning, an unauthorized communication was sent to the Wilson Center by a staff member with a list of resources regarding Israel and Gaza,” the spokesperson said. “It was not sent to all City Schools of Decatur or to any students. We recognize the email and links were insensitive and inappropriate. They do not represent the opinions and views of City Schools of Decatur. This issue is currently under investigation. Our focus remains to ensure all students and staff feel safe, seen, and successful.”

The attachment might be upsetting for some readers. To see a copy of the attachment, click here.

Several of the links in that document refer to a group called Jewish Voices for Peace. The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta sent an advisory to media outlets warning that the group does not represent the views of the mainstream global Jewish community.

“As the [Anti-Defamation League] has made clear: JVP is a radical anti-Israel and anti-Zionist activist group that advocates the eradication of Zionism,” the advisory from the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta says. “The spread of JVP’s most inflammatory ideas can help give rise to antisemitism.”

The Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas against Israelis and the deaths of civilians in response to that attack has been a divisive topic, particularly within education.

Thousands died during the attack and its aftermath. The conflict is ongoing. According to ABC News, “More than 1,400 people have been killed in Israel, including children, and more than 4,500 people have been injured, Israeli officials said. At least 32 of those killed in Israel are Americans, according to the U.S. State Department. At least 3,400 people have been killed in Gaza and more than 12,000 have been injured, according to the Palestinian Health Authority.”

Decaturish media partner Atlanta News First reported that the Jewish community at Emory University is raising concerns after a protest on campus. Jewish students say protestors were chanting antisemitic phrases. To read the full story, click here.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution published an in-depth story about the communications challenges faced by colleges and schools in response to the incident.

“As various institutions have shared thoughts about the Israel-Hamas War and expressed grief for those who have died, many have faced criticism that highlights the polarization and sensitivity related to the decades of conflict,” the AJC reported. “Perhaps the clearest divisions have been drawn at colleges and schools, where leaders face difficult decisions about how to acknowledge a contentious subject and show support for their campuses’ diverse students and staff.”

To read the full story, click here.

Local school districts have tried to walk a line when speaking about the conflict, some more successfully than others. City Schools of Decatur sent out a community safety advisory on Oct. 12.

“City Schools of Decatur (CSD) is aware of threats targeting the Jewish community following the escalated violence in Israel and Gaza,” the email says. “We have not received any threats to the district or any of our schools. However, CSD is collaborating with the City of Decatur Police Department, and we are monitoring the situation closely.”

DeKalb County Schools Superintendent Devon Horton also spoke about the conflict in a recent email to parents.

“The safety and well-being of our students, staff, families, and community remain paramount in every DeKalb County School District (DCSD) school, center, and property.,” he said. “To that end, I’ll underscore that, to date, there have been no reported specific threats or acts of violence within our schools related to the tragic events abroad. Nonetheless, we have taken additional safety measures. Our DCSD Police Officers, campus security, school administrators, and staff have been instructed to be specifically vigilant in identifying and investigating any potential threats or physical altercations that may be related to these events.”

To read the full email from Horton, click here.

An initial statement released by Atlanta Public Schools following the attack was widely panned for being weak and making a reference to the Civil Rights movement, prompting APS to release a stronger statement days later, according to Rough Draft Atlanta. To read that story, click here.

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