Vermont School District Class Features Unit Discussing “Palestinian Social Movements”

Course material includes multiple falsehoods about Israel
January 17, 2024
Photo by RDNE Stock project/pexels

A class focusing on “social movements and protests” at a Vermont school district has a unit discussing “Palestinian social movements,” according to documents obtained by the grassroots organization Parents Defending Education (PDE) via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) act.

The course, titled “U.S. and the Modern World: Social Movements and Protest,” is an elective for juniors and seniors at the Champlain Valley School District (CVSD) in Shelburne, Vt. and one of the units in the course “is spent discussing Palestinian social movements against Israel,” per PDE. “The unit begins with a video detailing the history of Palestinian uprisings against Israel and declares, ‘Until … Israel ends its occupation, we will continue to see Palestinians struggle for their rights on our screens,’” the PDE states on its website.

The video, titled “Brief Animated History of Palestine,” states, among other things, that Israel “claimed much more of Palestine than the [1947 United Nations] partition allocated” after declaring independence in 1948 and “more than half of the Palestinians were expelled from or fled their homes and ended up in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza and neighboring countries.” “Palestinians refer to this as the nakba, or catastrophe,” the video adds. The video does not mention that the Jews in what was then Mandatory Palestine actually accepted the partition plan, but the Arabs did not and instead launched a war against the newly established state of Israel.

Additionally, the course suggests the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM) and the Palestine Campaign as “possible social movements” to cover. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the PYM “has expressed support for terrorism against Israel and frequently engages in inflammatory rhetoric about Zionism, including calls to stigmatize and ban Zionists from community spaces.” As examples, the ADL pointed to a PYM speaker at a protest in Washington, D.C. following the Oct. 7 massacre declaring that the “settler colonial project was in greater danger than before and scrambling in the face of the steadfastness of the Palestinians.” Additionally, the ADL noted that other PYM-sponsored protests have featured signs stating, “Zionism is fascism, Colonizers out at DC” and “Congress is Israeli occupied territory.”

“This course is illustrative of a troubling trend of completely one-sided content that seeks to convince students that Palestine is good and Israel is bad.” – Erika Sanzi

The Palestine Campaign, per the PDE, states on their website that the Oct. 7 massacre “can only be understood in the context of Israel’s ongoing military occupation and colonization of Palestinian land, and imposition of a system that meets the legal definition of apartheid.”

Any Jewish and Israeli perspectives are excluded from the course, per the PDE.

“This course is illustrative of a troubling trend of completely one-sided content that seeks to convince students that Palestine is good and Israel is bad,” PDE Director of Outreach Erika Sanzi said in a statement to the Journal. “The bias is staggering but also not surprising because this is what so many schools teach now.”

The district did not immediately respond to the Journal’s request for comment.

UPDATE 1: Rene Sanchez, superintendent of the district, told the Journal in an email that the course is being featured at Champlain Valley Union (CVU) High School in Hinesburg, Vt. and that the district “is a learning institution that engages in inclusive practices that help our community implement the shared vision from our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work. This vision strives to ‘create and sustain safe, diverse, equitable, and inclusive learning ecosystems that meet individual needs, foster belonging, acknowledge histories, and cultivate and celebrate identities and stories.’

“This commitment to inclusivity can be found district-wide, particularly in our strategic plan, policies, and practices,”  Sanchez added. “The first priority from our Strategic Plan is academic growth and belonging, and we empower schools to provide “opportunities for students to develop and affirm their identity and expand their understanding of how their experiences contribute to their educational journey.” It continues with the goal of developing an ‘inclusive, diverse, and affirming curriculum that removes barriers, ensures students see themselves represented in curriculum materials, and teaches students to examine various perspectives.’ Moreover, the CVSD Equity Policy also notes our mission to create ‘inclusive multicultural school environments for adults and children.’ And our teachers use culturally responsive practices ‘that support and empower all students socially, emotionally, intellectually, and civically by leveraging students’ lived experiences to ensure learning.’”

Additionally, Sanchez claimed that the PDE “did not contact the school to learn more about this particular class or other courses where it could have learned more about CVU’s and CVSD’s commitment to inclusivity.”

UPDATE 2: Adam Bunting, principal of CVU High School, said in a statement to the Journal, “After reviewing the materials sent to Parents Defending Education, we determined that the course… was in process as opposed to fully developed. The objective of the course is to provide multiple perspectives on social movements to allow students to engage in critical thinking. We will continue to vet the resources we share with our students to ensure equitable and inclusive learning spaces.”

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