Debate over Middle East conflict flares as students, some educators stage walkout in Portland –

Hundreds of Portland high school students and some of their teachers streamed out of schools Friday afternoon to protest ongoing bloodshed in Gaza, the latest sign that the crisis in the Middle East has emerged as a touchstone cause for the city’s vocal activist community.

But unlike other student-driven movements in Portland — including previous climate justice walkouts — the students’ calls for the district to support a ceasefire in Israel and a free Palestine has evoked strong opposition from some Jewish families, educators and students, who also say they are concerned about the Portland Association of Teachers’ public stance on the issue.

School board members have so far refused to accede to demands from student activists, including that lessons about “the ideology of Zionism and its roots in white supremacy [and] Palestinian liberation and social justice” be taught at all grade levels. They moved a recent board meeting online after an eruption of chants from pro-Palestinian audience members. Zionism is a movement that advocates for Israel as a Jewish homeland.

Student activists have also said they also want the district to release a statement calling for a ceasefire and condemning the Israel’s government prolonged military response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attacks and hostage takings and to ensure that no district funds are spent on companies with ties to Israel.

“If these demands are not met, we can only promise a continual fight from an organized student body,” organizers with the group PPS Students for Justice in Palestine wrote in a letter to school board members that they submitted after Friday’s event.

As I’ve long argued, politics have no place in public schools.