Brooklyn, NY – A Park Slope principal ordered a teacher to stop wearing t-shirts that read “Proud Zionist” and “Back the Blue” even though the administration has permitted other faculty to wear attire with “Black Lives Matter” and other political slogans.
The problems started for English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher Jeffrey Levy when MS 51 Principal Neal Singh ordered him to stop wearing a shirt that read “Proud Zionist” at school, the New York Post reported.
Levy said Singh told him that students and staff had complained about the pro-Israel t-shirt that featured a Star of David on the front.
The ESL teacher said the principal also told him that he’d gotten complaints about Levy’s shirt that read “Back the Blue,” which he had worn in the past in support of law enforcement, the New York Post reported.
Levy said the edict from Singh wasn’t fair because the school had permitted other staff members to wear Black Lives Matter and pro-feminist t-shirts while teaching at MS 51.
So he filed a discrimination complaint with the city Department of Education’s (DOE) Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity on Sept. 30, the New York Post reported.
“Singh told me that my t-shirt with an Israeli flag on it and the words ‘Proud Zionist’ were ‘politically explosive,’” Levy wrote in the complaint.
“He told me that Zionism involves the retaking of Palestinian land and is ‘offensive,’ ” the complaint continued, according to the New York Post.
The teacher explained in his complaint that Zionism is the movement that resulted in the creation of the state of Israel for Jewish people.
However, Palestinians have long claimed the land was stolen from them and there have been ongoing violent clashes between the two factions for years.
Levy told the New York Post that he was recently confronted outside school by a student who yelled at him “Palestine is Palestine!”
“I said, ‘You’re welcome to your opinion,’ ” Levy said.
He said Singh was using a double standard at MS 51, the New York Post reported.
“Singh has permitted other staff to wear attire with ‘Black Lives Matter,’ ‘Feminism is the radical idea that women are people,’ ‘Feminist’ and ‘O’Connor & Ginsburg & Sotomayor & Kagan,’ ” Levy wrote in his complaint.
“Singh’s definition of politically explosive attire appears limited to Jews only,” the teacher alleged, according to the New York Post.
Levy, a 20-year veteran of MS 51, openly accused the principal of anti-Semitism in his complaint.
“None of my attire, actions or beliefs endanger the emotional or physical safety of students or staff, which Singh accused me of. … I have conducted myself professionally and have always respected the beliefs of all while doing my job neutrally and without bias. … His attempt to threaten and intimidate me is anti-Semitic,” he wrote.
DOE backed up the principal’s edict that Levy must stop wearing what it deemed to be politically-charged attire in the classroom in a statement to the New York Post.
“Schools are not public forums for advancing personal political views, and per Department of Education regulations, employees are prohibited from using schools for the purpose of political expression,” DOE spokeswoman Katie O’Hanlon said.
“This principal’s request followed complaints from students and staff and is consistent with policies around political neutrality in schools,” O’Hanlon said
Chancellor’s Regulation D-130 dictates that “School buildings are not public forums for purposes of community or political expression,” the New York Post reported.
“While on duty or in contact with students, school personnel may not wear buttons, pins, articles of clothing, or any other items advocating a candidate, candidates, slate of candidates or political organization/committee,” according to the regulations.
Levy argued that his “Proud Zionist” shirt didn’t violated those regulations, the New York Post reported.
Former New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind, leader of an anti-Semitism group that has supported Levy, sent a letter to schools Chancellor Meisa Ross Porter that charged district officials had engaged in a “double standard” and “anti-Semitic ignorance.”
“How insulting!” Hikind ranted to the New York Post. “This is sick. This is pathetic. This is anti-Semitic.”
“You can’t say you’re a proud Jew and supportive of the people and the state of Israel?” he asked.
He said New York City’s DOE was “representing the extreme left, the radical wing of the Democratic Party,” by having one set of rules for Jewish issues and another set for other liberal causes.
“There should be one standard for all. But this is what’s going on in our city,” the former law maker said.
The Police Tribune reached out to Singh for comment but had not received a response at publication time.