Arizona Superintendent Horne denounces Palestine support event at Scottsdale high school
Nov 8, 2023, 3:33 PM | Updated: 4:58 pm
(KTAR News Photo/Heidi Hommel)
PHOENIX — Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne has denounced an event supporting Palestine at a Scottsdale high school last week in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war.
UNICEF and Amnesty International held the event at Desert Mountain High School on Thursday. Community members then brought it to the attention of the Arizona Department of Education, Horne said at a Wednesday press conference.
Jewish students reportedly felt unsafe during the presentation, according to Horne.
“The materials presented to these students were profoundly antisemitic in particular and anti-American in general, in nature,” Horne said.
Horne also urged district superintendents to keep the groups that ran it off campuses.
“We all belong to a minority group of one kind or another,” Horne said. “If Jewish people – and Americans in general — can be targeted by UNICEF and Amnesty International, who is next?”
Desert Mountain principal Lisa Hirsch sent a letter to parents on Friday, the day after the event, denouncing antisemitism, Islamophobia and any hate speech.
A walk-out was planned at the high school on Thursday but was canceled.
“During these dark and troubled times, our school is working diligently to navigate difficult conversations in a way that honors the learning process for our students,” Hirsch said in the letter.
“We will continue to work to create a safe and supportive school where each person feels a sense of belonging and knows they are valued for who they are, regardless of any particular identity they have.”
Scottsdale Unified School District echoed the sentiments of Hirsch in a statement to KTAR News on Wednesday.
“We understand that concerns were raised following a joint club meeting and we want to make it unequivocally clear that Scottsdale Unified School District stands firmly against antisemitism, discrimination, hate speech and anything that diminishes the dignity of any human being based on their religion, race, ethnicity, gender or any other factors,” the district said.
“We are committed to ensuring that every student feels seen, heard and valued for who they are.”
The war between Hamas and Israel, an ally of the United States, has been raging for over a month.
Hamas militants stormed from the blockaded Gaza Strip into nearby Israeli towns, killing about 1,400 people and taking over 240 hostage in an unprecedented surprise attack during a major Jewish holiday on Oct. 7.
Fighting has continued since, with Israel pushing into Palestine to crush Hamas, the militant group that has ruled Gaza for 16 years.
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Heidi Hommel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.