Hayward Unified school board condemns antisemitism after public outcry

Peter Bufete, president of the Hayward Unified School District Board of Education, condemns antisemitism at a meeting on Wednesday night. (YouTube screenshot)

HAYWARD, Calif. — The leadership of the Hayward Unified School District acknowledged Wednesday the harm caused by a teacher spreading antisemitic material at Mt. Eden High School and admitted that the district has a significant amount of work to do to correct the damage.

“Hayward Unified School District does not condone or tolerate any type of hateful or biased rhetoric, including antisemitism,” said board President Peter Bufete. “We take these allegations very seriously.”

During the Feb. 15 school board meeting, Mt. Eden students and staff expressed their concerns about the teacher using “The Hidden Tyranny: The Issue That Dwarfs All Issues,” a 1984 book that pushes conspiracy theories about Jewish people, in class. They reported the teacher’s conduct to the administration in December, but students said no action was taken other than instructing the teacher not to use the book.

Bufete acknowledged that, because of confidentiality concerns, much cannot be shared with the community yet, but he assured the audience that the district is working tirelessly to address the issue. His remarks followed an hour of public comment, during which students, staff, alumni and community members expressed their solidarity with the Jewish and Mt. Eden communities. Other members of the community said they have been sounding the alarm on anti-Black racism in the district for years, including at the Feb. 15 meeting, but none of the media outlets covered that.

“If we’re going to do this for one, let’s do this for all,” said parent Sabria Dupree.

In response to the action, students from the high school organized an antisemitic awareness week. Ruchita Verma, a senior at Mt. Eden and one of the organizers, said she was disappointed that there has “been no genuine acknowledgement or apology.”

“Last week, students were once again allowed in antisemitic spaces,” Verma said. “In a restorative justice circle, students were allowed to debate a document that says Jews deserved their genocide, and administration allowed this hate speech to prevail. No one disabused them of this lie.”

She added that a board member refused to answer the question of whether academic freedom allows a teacher to teach hate speech.

“Without a clear ‘no’ from our leaders,” Verma said, “we can’t trust that our administration has students’ welfare at heart.”

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