A Jewish civil rights groups filed a lawsuit last week against the Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD) board, alleging it violated state law and was allowing antisemitic instruction.
A coalition of advocacy and legal groups, led by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights, claims SAUSD’s ethnic studies classes “contain controversial and antisemitic content that is – or would be, if properly made public – deeply disturbing to the local community.”
The plaintiffs also allege the Santa Ana board violated the Brown Act, a law requiring public boards to act openly and transparently.
Ethnic studies will soon be required for all California high school students, and while the plaintiffs don’t object to such courses in theory, they “object strenuously to curriculum being developed in secrecy and to teachings that reflect bias against any particular group, including Jewish Americans and Israelis,” the lawsuit reads.
At the district’s May board meeting, the public was invited to give feedback on the school’s proposed ethnic studies curriculum.
However, the lawsuit alleges Jewish community members were harassed at the meeting, where they were “ridicul[ed] for wearing articles and artifacts of their cultural identity” and made to “feel unsafe because of their Jewish heritage.”
Some local Arab residents support the new curriculum.
“These facts should not equate to antisemitism,” said Mirvette Judeh, a Palestinian American and Buena Park city commissioner. “I hope the district doesn’t revise it because they took a step in the right direction.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) also urged the district to not change the content.
“Had it been, we would have been among the first to condemn such curriculum,” said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of CAIR in Los Angeles. “The last thing we need is to teach any curriculum that promotes any form of bigotry, whether it’s Islamophobia or antisemitism.”
The school board has already approved at least five ethnic studies classes that include “one-sided anti-Israel screeds and propaganda,” the suit says, including the claim that Israel is an illegitimate and racist colonizer that stole land from Palestine.
“Jewish organizations like ours know all too well the importance of courses like ethnic studies which aim to prevent bigotry and discrimination,” said Rachel Lerman, vice chair and general counsel for the Brandeis Center. “But when these courses are used to spread hate against a particular group, we need to speak out.”