Investigation underway after Queens high school students reportedly riot over a teacher’s support for Israel


(New York Jewish Week) — City officials are investigating after students at a Queens high school reportedly rioted over a teacher’s participation in a pro-Israel rally.

“The vile show of antisemitism at Hillcrest High School was motivated by ignorance-fueled hatred, plain and simple, and it will not be tolerated in any of our schools, let alone anywhere else in our city. We are better than this,” Mayor Eric Adams tweeted on Saturday.

The incident at the school took place Nov. 20 and broke into public view over the weekend after TikTok videos showing violence at the school went viral.

“POV: Hillcrest high school had a riot because a Health teacher was supporting Israel,” read the caption on one video.

“POV: your school had 1 lockdown multiple fights and riots js bc of a teacher that choose to wake up one day and choose support against Zionism and occupation,” read the caption on another video that showed students waving Palestinian flags in the halls, damage to the school and a picture of a teacher at a pro-Israel rally. Both videos are no longer available on TikTok.

During the two-hour incident, the students reportedly protested outside the teacher’s classroom, preventing her from leaving until she could be escorted by the police, according to a report in the New York Post.

“I have worked hard to be supportive of our entire student body and an advocate for our community, and was shaken to my core by the calls to violence against me that occurred online and outside my classroom last week,” the teacher told the newspaper, which shielded her identity for her safety. She added in her statement, “It’s my hope in the days ahead we can find a way to have meaningful discussions about challenging topics with respect for each other’s diverse perspectives and shared humanity.”

Hillcrest, which is located in the Jamaica neighborhood of Queens, enrolls about 2,400 students. Adams said a city education department initiative that pairs schools with community groups, Project Pivot, would begin working with students there this week “to ensure they understand why this behavior was unacceptable.”

Schools Chancellor David Banks, himself a Hillcrest graduate, tweeted on Sunday that the education department was “aware of the completely unacceptable incident that occurred at Hillcrest High School last week” and had already taken steps to shore up safety practices at the school. He also said the outside groups that the department is recruiting to intervene at Hillcrest “will play a crucial role in contributing to the broader mission of de-escalation and creating teachable moments from this challenging situation.”

A city council member representing the school’s area of Queens called for Hillcrest to be shut down while there’s an investigation into the riot, as well as and a different incident that took place the previous week in which four students were reportedly arrested after allegedly attacking a safety officer at the school.

“It’s clear that the administration of Hillcrest is totally compromised and either unwilling or unable to do what’s necessary to provide a safe environment to their students or their faculty,” the council member, Vickie Palladino, tweeted on Sunday.

The incident at Hillcrest comes amid foment by some New York City public school students over Israel’s war in Gaza, which began Oct. 7 after Hamas terrorists attacked Israel, killing 1,200 and taking hundreds of hostages. Earlier this month, hundreds of students joined a citywide rally, supported by a number of progressive educator groups, following a student walkout to support the Palestinians.