Quaker school suspends 2 teachers over Palestinian speaker
Feb. 14, 2017
WYNNEWOOD, Pa. (AP) — Two teachers at a Quaker school outside Philadelphia have been suspended over fallout from a Palestinian speaker's invitation to a school club they supervised.
The controversy is highlighting an issue for many Quaker schools: While the American Friends Service Committee supports putting economic pressure on Israel to end the occupation of Palestinian territories, many students at Quaker schools are Jewish.
Teachers Ariel Eure and Layla Helwa were put on administrative leave Monday from Friends' Central School in Wynnewood, a lawyer representing the two women told the Philadelphia Inquirer (http://bit.ly/2lfT6J8).
The lawyer, Mark Schwartz, said the teachers were told they were suspended for disobeying a supervisor and for having a "single-minded approach to a complicated issue for the community."
The teachers supervised the school's Peace and Equality in Palestine club, and invited Swarthmore College professor and Quaker Sa'ed Atshan to speak last week at the club.
Some parents complained about Atshan's involvement in a movement that advocates punitive measures against Israel, and school leaders canceled his speech.
The administration says the teachers are on paid leave while an extensive review is conducted.
"As a Quaker school, we have long-standing expectations for all members of our community — especially for our teachers, who have the responsibility of guiding young minds," it said. "There are very real concerns about the conduct of Ariel Eure and Layla Helwa for their disregard of our guiding testimonies, which include community, peace, and integrity."
About 65 students and Eure and Helwa walked out of a school meeting to protest the speech's cancellation. The teachers also attended a student meeting where the students discussed their concerns. Afterward, some students marched with signs reading "My voice will not be silenced" and "Bring back my speaker."
Information from: The Philadelphia Inquirer, http://www.inquirer.com