Maryland Teacher Denies Hamas Raid, Accuses Israel of Organ Theft

(The Washington Post) — A Maryland teacher “may be on leave” after screenshots of a social-media post purported to show her saying that Hamas’ Oct. 7 music-festival massacre of 260 Israelis was a hoax, her school said. She also posted that “Palestinian’s are being killed and their organs are being sold. How is real life scarier than the movies??” according to the screenshots, which circulated widely in Montgomery County over the weekend.

“Debunked! No music festival attack. Babies were not burned. Women were not violated. Hospitals were attacked on purpose,” Sabrina Khan-Williams — who teaches world studies in addition to diversity, equity and inclusion at Tilden Middle School in suburban D.C. — wrote, according to the screenshots. She did not immediately reply to requests to comment for this story.

The Rockville, Md., middle school’s principal, Sapna Hopkins, informed parents Monday that she was aware of social-media posts made by a staff member at the school. She didn’t name the staff member or detail what the posts said.

She wrote to families that she reported the incident to a school-system department responsible for handling investigations of alleged inappropriate employee actions, adding that “an employee may be on leave during the investigation.” She wrote that “a strict process governs our response to this matter, and any actions resulting from an investigation will be considered a personnel matter.” She said the school system would be unable to provide further details, citing employee-privacy laws.

“These social media posts have undermined our school’s values of respect and belonging,” Hopkins wrote. “I understand the deep distress and hurt this incident has caused our community.”

Parents in the Rockville middle school’s community were outraged at the posts, which they say espouse the same rhetoric used by Holocaust deniers and antisemites. Several students at the school and their families are Jewish and have direct ties to Israel, two parents interviewed by The Washington Post said. Some of those families know people who were killed during the Oct. 7 attack or are currently being held hostage by Hamas.

“It feels especially jarring” to have someone who teaches diversity and inclusion “be also the same person who is doing real hatred,” said Tamar Lechter, a parent of a seventh-grader at the school. “It begs the question of what is the training and what are we demanding of teachers who come into that space?” said Lechter, who is Jewish and a dual Israeli and U.S. citizen.

The middle school community had already encountered two antisemitic incidents in the past month: Drawings of swastikas were found on campus twice in October.

Several Montgomery County students and staff have reported antisemitic events in the past year, part of a rising nationwide trend. Such incidents have soared during the Israel-Gaza war.

Members of Tilden’s parent teacher student association reached out to the Montgomery County Public Schools central office to “seek support for addressing the antisemitic incidents at Tilden and broader challenges related to diversity, equity and inclusion,” the organization’s board wrote in an email late Monday night obtained by The Post. The board reached out multiple times Monday again, ahead of a PTSA meeting scheduled for Tuesday.

“However, we are sorry to report that we have not received adequate support from the MCPS central office to hold a productive or informative meeting,” they wrote, adding that the central office of Maryland’s largest school system “has not been responsive.” They listed out emails for several central office employees and county school board members, and urged other parents to request help.

In her email to the community, Hopkins, the principal, said she contacted the school system’s Office of Student Welfare and Compliance and Office of Student Support and Well-Being to provide support to students.

A spokesman from the school district did not answer a request to comment for this story.

The PTSA also reached out to local organizations to provide anti-bias training to the school community. They thanked the principal for “supporting us in these efforts.” The PTSA did not respond to a request for an interview Tuesday.

Lechter said in an interview that she was uncertain about whether she should send her seventh-grade daughter to school after reviewing the teacher’s social-media posts. Her child ultimately went to school Tuesday, though it was “a difficult choice,” because it was unclear whether the teacher would be on campus or not. She emailed several central office employees Tuesday morning — including schools superintendent Monifa B. McKnight — and asked for more information about Khan-Williams’s status.

She received a response Tuesday afternoon from Brian Stockton, the school system’s chief of staff, who copied text from David Adams and Michael Zarchin, officials from the Office of Support and Well-Being. Adams and Zarchin said it was a personnel matter that they could not discuss further, but central office employees were working directly with the school’s principal.

Another Jewish parent of a seventh-grader in one of Khan-Williams’s world studies classes said the teacher wasn’t at school Monday or Tuesday. The child has described the teacher as fun and said they enjoyed learning in her classroom, and was having “a really hard time reconciling” that a favored teacher had said such things, said the parent.

Tilden officials also found swastikas on campus last year. The school held an assembly for each grade level, but the parent recalled her seventh-grader saying that school administrators had spoken about kindness and said nothing about antisemitism. The parent said she couldn’t take writing another angry, frightened email to school administrators and receiving “a lackluster response.” She said it seems as though the school system isn’t prioritizing fighting antisemitism in its schools.

“I feel like their lack of response to our PTSA who has been urgently requesting support unfortunately confirms that in a lot of ways for me,” the parent said. “At this point that’s my biggest concern: Who is going to stand up for us? Who is going to fight this if MCPS isn’t even responding to requests for help?”

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