Chancellor Outlines New Plans to Combat Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in Public Schools

While discriminatory incidents in public schools continue to rise, NYC Schools Chancellor insisted in a Jan. 22 round table discusion with media that ”Hate and harassment of any kind are unacceptable and will not be tolerated in our schools,.”

| 07 Feb 2024 | 12:51

New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks said at a “virtual ethnic media roundtable” on Jan. 22 that he is stepping up efforts to combat antisemitism and Islamophobia in public schools.

“As the conflict in the Middle East continues and vile acts of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia surge across our nation, many in our communities and our schools are deeply hurting,” Banks said. “Fighting hate, promoting unity—that is the charge before us,”

NYC public schools have come under public scrutiny since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack in Israel that claimed around 1,200 lives in Israel and resulted in over 100 hostages who are still being held by Hamas. Israel’s retaliation, resulted in the death of over 25,000 Palestinians. The schools have become a hotspot for an increase in incidents of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

Banks, in his Jan. 22 address detailed various initiatives, including a “comprehensive approach” plan and the formation of an Interfaith Advisory Council co-chaired by Reverend Jacques DeGraff, a member of the One Hundred Black Men of New York and a frequent contributor on Fox News.

Investigation incidents of anti-Semitism and Islamphobia will be a top priority by anti-discrimination school authorities going forward. ”Given our urgency on this issue, we are prioritizing investigations into anti-Semitism and Islamophobia allegations through our Office of Equal Opportunity,” Banks said.

Banks gave this speech almost two months after the incident at his alma mater, Hillcrest High School in Queens where a pro-Palestine protest by the school students turned into a riot to demand the removal of a pro-Israel teacher. Banks recalled the incident during his speech and called it “deeply concerning.”

The Jewish teacher, who had expressed support for Israel on social media, had to be relocated to another building on the day of the chaotic protest. The “planned peaceful protest” turned chaotic, with online rumors circulating. Eventually about 20 NYPD officers responded to quell the chaos and the school was shut down for two hours.

“The vile show of antisemitism at Hillcrest High School was motivated by ignorance-fueled hatred, plain and simple, and it will not be tolerated in any of our schools, let alone anywhere else in our city,” Mayor Eric Adams had tweeted.

Following the incident, Banks visited the school and clarified that the teacher was “not in direct danger.” He emphasized that it is irresponsible to label the students as “radicalized” and “anti-Semitic.” As a consequence of the incident, the school implemented disciplinary measures against certain students involved in the protest and one student was arrested.

Bank said his plan to address antisemitism, Islamophobia, and various forms of hatred is a collaborative effort of his team by incorporating feedback from diverse community members. It centers around three key areas: education, safety, and engagement.

“We must educate our students and sometimes our staff to raise their consciousness and to overcome bias. We must distinguish between truth and misinformation, and between disagreement and hate,” he said.

He announced workshops for high school principals that focus on navigating difficult conversations. These workshops aim to extend their training to school staff and leaders.

“We will be updating and enhancing our training materials and resources for our staff to include specific components on antisemitism, Islamophobia, and the upholding of non-discrimination laws, including Title VI in our schools,” Banks stated.

“We cannot and we will not have schools where students feel like they can do whatever they want without accountability for their actions,” he emphasized but also mentioned that the principals are not taking enough disciplinary action “even in clear-cut common sense cases.”

To address that, Banks said all public school principals will retrain on the discipline code to address incidents with suitable direct consequences.

The school systems will also offer anti-discrimination workshops to parent leaders.

He reminded everyone that the primary point of contact in any case for students and staff is the principal and if need be, they can submit a report at, call the bullying support hotline at 718-935-2288, or email

In his speech, Chancellor Banks also highlighted instances of solidarity, particularly citing the aftermath of the incident at Hillcrest. He mentioned, “It was Muslim students who embraced her, and a Muslim teacher stood in her classroom alongside her, signaling, ‘We are with you. This is New York City. The whole world lives here,’” Banks said.

As the conflict in the Middle East intensifies, numerous other NYC public schools have garnered social media and news attention. Recently, PS School 261 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn faced criticism for a map of the Middle East that omitted Israel and labeled the region between Egypt and Lebanon as “Palestine.” The map, which had been used in an Arab art and culture class for 12 years, was removed in response to the backlash.