Yearbook controversy raises concerns for Jewish students at Southern California school

A Southern California high school yearbook is facing controversy after an article about the war between Israel and Hamas was included in print, prompting some students and parents to say the editorial is harmful to the local Jewish community.

The student-written, teacher-approved article titled “Whose Land Is It Anyway?” » It was printed on a single page of the Palos Verdes High School yearbook.

For PVHS student Kayla Epstein, the article is problematic and upsetting.

“There’s so much about this that is incorrect,” Epstein told KTLA’s Gene Kang as she held the yearbook open for the essay.

Critics of the article say it contains misinformation and that victims blame Israel for atrocities committed by Hamas during the bloody month of October. 7 attack. Additionally, they believe it raises safety concerns for Jewish students and the South Bay Jewish community.

“Reading things like ‘the Jewish problem’ or ‘the original sin,’ that terminology… it’s heartbreaking to see people at my school who sincerely think and believe these things,” Epstein said.

Students, parents and members of a local Jewish congregation have met with school district officials about the issue, but so far their demands have not been met.

“When I saw this article, I went home literally sobbing. I couldn’t say a word to my mom because it’s my yearbook,” Epstein added. “It’s my last memory of high school. I graduate in two days. This is what we are dealing with and I don’t know how this got published.

The article “Whose Land Is This, Anyway?” Excerpt from the 2024 Palos Verdes High School yearbook. Click on the image to enlarge. (KTLA)

Tzvi Graetz, rabbi of Congregation Ner Tamid of the South Bay, told KTLA he hopes the incident can be used as a teaching moment.

“We hope that this incident, as sad as it is and traumatic for all of us, can be a springboard so that we can all start an educational process where we can train teachers on what anti-Semitism is, how to “Identify to ensure that never again does an article like this appear in a directory,” he explained.

A rebuttal to the article written by the group addressing district officials reads in part:

“While Palos Verdes Unified School District yearbooks include editorial sections that often highlight important world events of that year, this should not be used as a platform to promote any form of bias .”

On the other side of the spectrum, some argued that the student who wrote the op-ed had a right to free speech. At a school board meeting Tuesday evening, where about 80 people had time to comment, some said the student who wrote the op-ed was being unfairly singled out.

“I have never seen a situation where students were harassed, treated unfairly for expressing their opinions,” one speaker said during public comment. “My heart goes out to the PV High School student who published an article in her high school publication and as a result faces bullying and harassment on our campuses.”

KTLA reached out to the student who wrote the article and the teacher who approved it, but has so far not received a response. The school district also did not respond to an interview request.

Meanwhile, high school administrators sent an email to families regarding the controversial article and its negative impact on the community, essentially saying the editorial does not represent the district’s position on these issues.

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