MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. - Shortly after Hamas' attack on Israel on Oct. 7, antisemitism was the center of an alleged incident at Manhattan Beach Middle School.
According to the families of four 11-year-old Jewish girls at the school, another 11-year-old classmates told the girls "revenge is beautiful," and "all Israelis and Jews should be killed."
The incident set off tensions in the South Bay community. One of the parents of the four girls caught in the crossfire said her daughter was "hurt, and couldn't understand why somebody would say something like that."
"Kids are innocent, and the fact that our 11-year-olds are losing their innocence at that age, it's such a shame," said Rabbi Joshua Kalev.
Rabbi Kalev said three of the four girls involved in the incident are a part of his congregation, and it has affected how other Jewish kids are feeling.
"I have our students coming up to me saying ‘I don’t feel comfortable wearing a Jewish star at school,' or a T-shirt they got on a trip to Israel. They've asked their parents to take down their mezuzah from their door post because they don't want to be identified as a Jewish family."
Ther were rumors swirling surrounding how the district handled the matter, with some claiming the students involved were required to sign "gag orders" the Manhattan Beach Unified School District clarified to FOX 11 that it required students to sign what they call a "No Contact Contract," which states that the students won't contact each other for the rest of the school year, or discuss it with other students.
The Manhattan Beach Unified School district issued a statement on the incident saying:
"The safety of our students and staff is a priority for us. Anti-Semitism and any other forms of discrimination are unacceptable and will not be tolerated on our campuses. Our schools should be a place where all individuals feel respected and supported.
We are aware of recent allegations that have circulated regarding inappropriate interactions between students at MBMS surrounding their views on current events in the Middle East. Unfortunately, much of what is being shared on social media and within the local community is not based in fact. The situation was immediately reported to school officials, and a thorough investigation took place. Student privacy laws preclude divulging specific details of investigatory findings, so we cannot comment on the specifics of the matter. However, please know that appropriate consequences have been administered based on the authority vested in schools under the California Education Code.
We take incidents like this very seriously and handle them in alignment with student discipline policies, procedures, Education Code, and law. We also empathize with everyone who is being impacted by the horrific conflict in the Middle East. This has understandably raised tensions and concerns among our students and our community. MBUSD educators continue to focus on building empathy and understanding. It is imperative to ensure that all students, including our Jewish students, feel accepted, supported by one another, and safe in our community. To that end, we continue to teach children to make responsible decisions and behave appropriately toward one another.
At times when there are difficult situations involving 11, 12, and 13-year-old students, MBMS has utilized ‘No Contact Contracts.’ These agreements are commonly used in school districts across the country and even in universities. They ask students to avoid each other and not speak to one another in order to avoid re-igniting situations we are trying to resolve. This allows us to ensure that further interactions occur with adult guidance and not when students are in settings where that might not be available. The goal of these agreements is to help protect all students from any future conflicts with one another. Although the school requested that all students who were directly involved in this incident to enter into its standard ‘No Contact Contract,’ no students involved in this situation were required to sign it, nor was a gag order ever administered. Upon review, the District is updating the language of its current "No Contact Contract" in order to eliminate confusion regarding its purpose and intent.
At MBUSD, we do not tolerate any form of anti-Semitism or discrimination, both of which go against everything we stand for. We take pride in our schools as welcoming, safe, and inclusive places. MBUSD has adopted the United Nations definition of Anti-Semitism, and we have worked in partnership with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to establish all of our schools as No Place for Hate Schools. Any anti-Semitic speech or action adversely affects our efforts to build a strong and inclusive community and is simply not allowed. We are committed to ensuring that no students experience anti-Semitism on our campuses and will continue to work to prevent such incidents from occurring in our schools."