United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), one of the most powerful teachers unions in Los Angeles, will vote at its September board meeting on a motion to endorse the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement and to call on US President Joe Biden to end foreign aid to Israel.
A pro-BDS motion with similar details was already adopted by several UTLA locals over the summer, reported the Jewish Journal.
In a statement, the UTLA, which has approximately 30,000 members across the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), said that those earlier motions are not representative of “the official expressed opinions of UTLA or its elected leaders.”
Reportedly, many Jewish families said they were worried about their children’s safety and quality of education as they return to school this fall, given the situation.
After the local motions passed, a group calling itself L.A. Parents Against Antisemitism (LAPAA) crafted a petition against the union's endorsement of the BDS movement, receiving hundreds of signatures from Los Angeles teachers.
Their letter stated: “We cannot allow any group of students to feel that their teachers are collectively poised against them. Our school district is one of the biggest in the world and it serves students from nations all around the world. It is inappropriate for our union to promote only one side in a complex international conflict that alienates and threatens students on campus.”
Nick Melvoin, Vice President of the LAUSD Board of Education, fears that the motion, if passed, could lead to a surge in anti-Semitism at the city’s schools.
In June, Melvoin became the first board member to voice his opposition to the motion. In a press release he said that it would “not move us closer to peace in the Middle East.” He added that “UTLA risks repeating a dangerous history of scapegoating Jews.”
Since he made his opposition public, “only one or two other city elected officials have come out” against the motion, in what he termed “an unfortunate double standard.”
“It’s unfortunate that, every few years, this rears its ugly head,” Melvoin told the Jewish Journal. “It’s important that our schools and teachers remain neutral on the complicated issue of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Why are our teachers and teachers’ union focusing on this when we should be focusing on getting schools reopened, especially at a time of rising antisemitism in L.A.?”
He said he was quite certain that the BDS motion was not favored by a “all or even a large minority of our teachers” and thought it was positive that he had witnessed a large number of teachers “come out to stand up for our Jewish students and communities and speak up about the inanity of weighing in on Middle Eastern politics from a local union.”
In June, a Jewish teacher who works in the LAUSD resigned from the UTLA after it moved to take up the BDS motion at an upcoming meeting.
Lindsey Kohn wrote in her resignation letter that the motion made her “feel unsafe as a Jew in this UTLA.”