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StandWithUs Students Fight Hate and Bias in California's Education System

Updated: Sep 24, 2019

Left to Right: Meshi Ben Ezri, Michaela Pelta, Danielle York, Kian Mirshokri

(Sacramento, CA -- September 20th, 2019) -- Four outstanding StandWithUs High School interns were in Sacramento on September 20th, opposing antisemitism and anti-Israel bias in California public schools. They traveled to the state capital to speak to the Instructional Quality Commission (IQC), an advisory body to the California State Board of Education. The IQC is in the process of reviewing a deeply flawed and widely criticized draft Ethnic Studies curriculum. During the meeting, the IQC decided to extend the review process for a year, in order to revise the current draft.

"As a member of an ethnic minority, I fully support the goal of ethnic studies," said Michaela Pelta, a student from Lowell High School in San Francisco. "However, this proposed curriculum not only doesn't include me, but actively marginalizes me with antisemitic and anti-Israel rhetoric."

"My family's experiences as Jewish immigrants from the Middle East are nowhere to be found in this curriculum," added Kian Mirshokri, a student from Palisades Charter High School in Los Angeles. "I'm urging the IQC to make changes, so public high school students like me are represented and understood by our peers."

On August 2nd, 2019 StandWithUs released an urgent action alert calling on the public to submit feedback about the draft curriculum to the IQC. Through our efforts alongside IAC, AJC, JCRC of San Francisco, AMCHA Initiative, Club Z, and others, we mobilized nearly 18,500 comments focused on, "concerns with a lack of inclusion of Jewish Americans and antisemitism, and concerns with the inclusion of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement".

StandWithUs 2019-20 High School Interns Eli Safaie-Kia from Palisades Charter High School and Meshi Benezri from Woodbridge High School in Orange, California were among those who submitted comments to the IQC, urging them to remove hatred and bias from the curriculum. Safaie-Kia was also interviewed about the issue by a publication in Sacramento. Both are part of a growing StandWithUs High School program that reached 90,000 students with educational programming last year.

Their voices, our voices, and your voices were heard. In August, the State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond and Superintendent Tony Thurmond acknowledged the flaws in the curriculum and called for it to be redesigned accordingly. California Governor Gavin Newsom said the current draft, "will never see the light of day" and "will be substantially amended." Our students are in Sacramento today to hold the state accountable to those promises. We look forward to seeing how the curriculum will be changed to remove hatred and bias, and fulfill its stated purpose of building understanding and empathy among diverse students across California. About StandWithUs

StandWithUs (SWU) is an eighteen year-old, international, non-profit and non-partisan Israel education organization that works to inspire and educate people of all ages about Israel, as well as challenge misinformation and fight against antisemitism.

Through university fellowships, high school internships, middle school curricula, conferences, materials, social media, educational films and missions to Israel, StandWithUs supports people around the world who want to educate their schools and communities about Israel. 

Based in Los Angeles, the organization has 18 chapters and offices throughout the U.S., in Israel, the UK, Canada and Brazil.

For the last 6 years, SWU has consistently received the highest ratings from Charity Navigator (4 stars) and Guidestar (Platinum)


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