Pro-Palestinian US high school students accuse school of censoring speech

By Thomson Reuters Apr 24, 2024 | 5:59 PM

By Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Some U.S. students at Washington, D.C.’s Jackson-Reed High School filed a lawsuit on Wednesday alleging the public high school’s administrators censored them by prohibiting pro-Palestinian events.

The lawsuit said administrators treated the Arab Student Union, a student club at the high school, differently from other groups like the Black Student Union and the Asian Student Union by restricting its activities.

“For the past four months, it [the Arab Student Union] and its members have been trying to engage in expressive activities at the high school – showing a documentary film, putting up posters, distributing literature, presenting a cultural program – but have been stopped at every turn by the school administration,” the lawsuit said.

The school did not respond to a request for comment.

The suit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of D.C. in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The complaint, which was reported earlier by the Washington Post, urged the court to ask the school to allow the students to engage in their activities before June 7, which is the last day of the school year for seniors.

“Their speech has been suppressed because the school does not want their viewpoint – which concerns the ongoing war in Gaza and its effects on the Palestinian people – to be heard,” the lawsuit adds.

The Gaza war has caused intense discourse and anti-war demonstrations across the United States, Israel’s most important ally.

Advocacy groups note a rise hate and bias against Jews, Arabs and Palestinians in the United States. Alarming incidents include the fatal October stabbing of a 6-year-old Palestinian American in Illinois, the November shooting of three students of Palestinian descent in Vermont and the February stabbing of a Palestinian American man in Texas.

Palestinian Islamist group Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies. Israel has killed over 34,000 people in Gaza in retaliation, according to Gaza’s health ministry, displacing nearly all its population and leading to widespread hunger and genocide allegations that Israel denies.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Tom Hals and Josie Kao)