The group of New Albany High School students who intended to start a school chapter of Amnesty International will be allowed to hold their first meeting after their club was suspended following cries of anti-Semitism.
Controversy arose when club founder, 17-year-old Ellie Henze, distributed fliers for the club’s first event that contained a photo with a protester holding a sign that read “Free Palestine.”
The fliers were quickly dubbed anti-Semitic and taken down.
But when the American Civil Liberties Union got involved, other perspectives were brought to light.
“It is not the job of school administrators to determine the acceptable political views of their students,” said Steve David, of the Ohio ACLU.
After a week of research and reflection on the goals of Amnesty International, New Albany High School principal Dwight Carter decided to let the students hold a meeting.
“My number one desire is to create a sense of belonging at school and that belonging comes from not just academic involvement, but student involvement with extracurricular activities. Student voice [is] hugely important to me,” Carter said.
Henze has since apologized for using the photo with the “Free Palestine” sign and stated she would have used a different photo, in retrospect.
5/6/16: Calls of anti-Semitism shutter New Albany High School club
When 17-year-old Ellie Henze started the New Albany High School chapter of Amnesty International, she said she did so because she’s passionate about human rights and international affairs.
But when she distributed a flier for the club’s first meeting that included a picture of a protester holding a “Free Palestine” sign, things got complicated pretty quickly.
The Jewish Federation of Columbus said it was contacted by people who said the flier was “anti-Israel” and offensive. When the Federation forwarded the complaints to the school district, the district had the fliers removed and the meeting postponed.
Henze says the situation is a misunderstanding.
“Amnesty International isn’t anti-Semitic, it’s not pro-Palestine or anti-Judaism — it supports human rights all over the world,” Henze said. “In retrospect, I wish I would’ve used a different picture, because this situation has been blown way out of proportion.”
New Albany High School Principal Dwight Carter sent an apology to all high school students and their families, and wrote an email to Henze saying he hopes to “protect our students from getting caught up in political lightning rod topics.”
A spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio has called the district’s stance problematic, saying the federal Equal Access Act requires schools to treat all extracurricular student groups the same, regardless of their religious, political or philosophical nature.
Representatives from Amnesty International and the Jewish Federation of Columbus said they would be going to New Albany to further discuss their positions on the issue.
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