Oakland teachers participate in unauthorized pro-Palestine teach-in

Dozens of Oakland public school teachers took part in a pro-Palestine teach-in on Wednesday despite a warning from the district that the curriculum was not approved.

The "From Gaza to Oakland" teach-in was organized by several members of the Oakland Education Association, who said it was a chance to expose students to diverse viewpoints and teach them about the human tragedy in Gaza.

"As a Jewish teacher, this is a very important issue for me," said organizer and substitute teacher Judy Greenspan. "We feel that OUSD has been very one-sided and has leaned very heavily on the Israeli educational lobby."

The organizers developed extensive lessons and curriculum for all grade levels that celebrates Palestinian culture but also pushes content from Palestine advocacy groups.

Greenspan said roughly 100 teachers took part and a virtual panel discussion was played in several middle school classrooms Wednesday afternoon, so students could "look at all sides of the issue."

The webinar leads off with a video of Bay Area protests against the war in Gaza, including protesters carrying a "genocide" banner, followed by several conversations with pro-Palestinian activists.

One activist, who went by Violette, said Israeli militia displaced her Palestinian grandmother in 1948 when the state of Israel was founded.

Other speakers denounced the Israeli government and even encouraged students to boycott companies based in Israel.

Students told KTVU on Wednesday that other lessons were taught about Palestine and the war in Gaza, but only in certain classes with certain teachers.

The lesson plans, which were shared online, have garnered sharp criticism from some parents.


Union endorses 'Gaza to Oakland' teach-in, says they won't be intimidated

Oakland's teachers union endorsed a pro-Palestine teach-in on Wednesday despite the superintendent's warning that the curriculum is not sanctioned by the district, setting up a possible showdown over an issue that has garnered national headlines. 

"They’re just rogue teachers who want to push their political agenda despite the fear and confusion it’s causing a lot of students, including Jewish students like mine," said parent Ben Siegel. "I told him if he feels uncomfortable he should leave the classroom."

Oakland Unified School District said this week it opposed the "unsanctioned" event. And Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell called the curriculum "harmful" and "divisive."

It is not known if the district will take any disciplinary action against teach-in participants. A district spokesperson did not return requests for comment Wednesday.

"We’re hoping that the district’s going to hold teachers accountable…for spreading inaccurate, biased materials," said Rabbi Serena Eisenberg with the American Jewish Committee. "They’re teaching things that really don’t belong in their classroom."

While several Jewish advocacy groups condemn the lessons, the Oakland Education Association said its union contract allows teachers to speak openly about current events with their students.

Organizers said most teachers saw the K-12 and high school curriculum as an alternative to educational materials taught in Oakland schools that they said take a pro-Israel point of view.

Parent Noor Ahmadi, who has a child in kindergarten, said it’s too early for elementary school students to think critically about a complex and nuanced topic.

"If it comes to just information about a country as far as geographic that’s one thing," he said. "But getting into politics – they don’t understand. They don’t even realize what they’re talking about."

Jewish parents told KTVU it wasn’t the first time their kids encountered criticism of Israel at school, making them fearful. Several said they want the district to take action on teachers who taught the controversial lessons.

"That can’t be the way it is," said Siegel. "The district needs to show more courage and show more courage for our kids."

Brooks Jarosz is a reporter for KTVU. Email him at brooks.jarosz@fox.com and follow him on Facebook and X @BrooksKTVU