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Concern over student walkout at high school

By Lisa Brody

Some parents of Jewish students attending Bloomfield Hills High School (BHHS) expressed anger and concern to the high school's principal as well as the Bloomfield Hills Schools Board of Education at their meeting on Thursday, October 26, over a student walkout in support of Palestinians on Wednesday, October 25, part of a national student walkout in support of Palestinians.

Karen Huyghe, director of communications for Bloomfield Hills Schools, said the walkout, attended by approximately 40 students, was not a sanctioned school district event. She said the students were told they had to follow the school's student code of conduct, and the walkout could not be on school grounds. The participants were on public property adjacent to the school between the parking lot and the school, and therefore the school could not prevent them from protesting, she said. However, Huyghe said, they did violate the school's student code of conduct by leaving school unauthorized and by participating in a non-school political event, and there have been repercussions. She would not elaborate or specify, however a reliable source confirmed that at least one of the participants, and likely several more, have been suspended from school.

“A small number of Bloomfield Hills High School students participated in a nationwide walkout, which was not a school-related or sponsored activity. Our commitment to the education of our students across all of our buildings remains our top priority. As we do each day, our schools will address any disruptions to learning following our student code of conduct. Bloomfield Hills Schools follows consistent procedures for any school issue follow up and does not provide comment on any student records. Our district will continue to support all of our students, while focusing on student learning and safety,” Huyghe said in a statement.

The students chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” and other genocidal death threats towards Jews, upsetting many Jewish students and their parents. The chant is known to refer to driving Jews from Israel into the sea, which protests Israel's right to exist as a nation.

As to word circulating on social media that a group of Palestinian or Muslim students at the school held a sale of keffiyeh scarves, she said that was not true. Huyghe said an unsanctioned and unrecognized school group came to the administration and asked to hold a sale of the scarves to raise money for the Palestinian cause, but the administration noted they were not a recognized school group, and only clothing and accessories emblazoned with the school's logo or other identifying symbols can be sold. She said no sale took place.

Keffiyeh scarves are traditional black and white Palestinian scarves that are used to express collective identity and solidarity through clothing.

As for the school walk out, BHHS Principal Dan Hartley reached out to parents and families, urging those who are concerned and upset to set up an appointment to speak with him. Huyghe said several already had.

“This week has been challenging for all of us. I want to thank those of you who have reached out to share your thoughts and concerns. BHHS administration is offering individual phone conversations with every student, parent, or guardian within our school community to those who are interested. We want to understand your concerns, explain the steps that the school took this week, and partner together in supporting the well-being of our students and school community… I ask that our entire BHHS community of students, parents, families, and staff members to join us in the following:

Unite our community around the common goal of providing a safe and supportive educational environment for all students. Encourage our students to only participate in school action or activities that are inclusive of the entire school community. Let’s promote kindness and respect for all.

“Let our students know that it is not acceptable to say or do anything that results in another student feeling unsafe. Refrain from attacking students and each other on social media. We can model kindness and how to engage in civil discourse. School should be a place where each and every student feels safe and supported, where every staff member is proud to work, and where every parent/guardian is comfortable sending their student. School should be a center for teaching and learning. I look forward to partnering with all of you in making this a place where we learn and grow together,” Hartley wrote.


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