NYC schools chancellor removes two elected parent leaders over Israel-Hamas war controversies


New York City’s schools chief has taken the unprecedented step of removing from their positions two elected parent leaders who have played major roles in stoking controversy over the Israel-Hamas war.

The two parent leaders booted from roles on local Community Education Councils were Maud Maron, the president of the council representing a Manhattan school district, and Tajh Sutton, who headed a council in Brooklyn.

Maron has harshly criticized pro-Palestinian student activism, while Sutton has promoted pro-Palestinian rhetoric and protests within the school system.

Chancellor David Banks removed Maron and Sutton for “allegedly violating open meetings laws and city regulations governing the conduct of parent leaders,” according to a report in Chalkbeat, an education news site. It was the first time any member of a CEC had been removed under a city complaint process created in 2021, the New York Post reported.

“It is a sad day when New York City Public Schools is compelled to take the actions I have ordered today, but the violations committed by these two individuals have made them unfit to serve in these roles,” Banks said in a statement.

Tensions surrounding the Israel-Hamas war have roiled schools and universities from coast to coast, and New York City’s public schools are no exception. In the spring, Banks was one of three public school leaders who testified before Congress about what they’re doing to combat antisemitism, and the city’s public schools —  which educate nearly a million students across the five boroughs — have ramped up faculty training on antisemitism and Islamophobia and clarified discipline rules.

From their seats heading CECs, school district policy advisory boards made up mostly of parents, both Maron and Sutton have played central roles in some of the city education department’s Israel-Hamas war dustups.

Maron told the New York Post in February that a student at Stuyvesant High School, where she is a parent, was a “coward” after they penned an anonymous opinion piece in the school newspaper refusing to condemn Hamas’ attacks on Oct. 7 and accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing. Maron, who is Jewish, also proposed a resolution condemning the attacks that her CEC, in District 2, which includes much of Manhattan below Central Park and the Upper East Side, failed to take up in October.

Maron, who is Jewish and has run unsuccessfully for both City Council and Congress, said she was told the comment to the newspaper was the reason for her removal. But she said she believed Banks had been motivated by another facet of her activism: her anti-trans comments, which education department officials including Banks last year publicly rejected as “despicable and not in line with our values.”

“The real reason the chancellor wants to remove me is because the Democratic establishment in New York City is furious because I know the difference between male and female and am willing to say so in polite company,” she said in an op-ed for the New York Post that was splashed across the paper’s front page on Sunday.

Sutton, meanwhile, headed the CEC for District 14, which Brooklyn’s Greenpoint and Williamsburg and was the only parent council to endorse a citywide pro-Palestinian student walkout in November. Banks cited that endorsement, as well as Sutton’s distribution of a “pro-Palestinian protest toolkit” featuring chants like “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “Say it loud, say it clear; We don’t want Zionists here,” according to Chalkbeat.

Pro-Palestinian protesters near Bryant Park in New York City, November 9, 2023. (Luke Tress)

Pro-Palestinian protesters near Bryant Park following a high school student walkout in New York City, Nov. 9, 2023. (Luke Tress)

Banks’ removal letter also cited Sutton’s effort to organize support for a paraprofessional at a New York City public school who faced backlash after making vehemently anti-Israel statements and her decision to made CEC meetings virtual, despite a state law to hold them in person, according to Chalkbeat.

At a virtual CEC meeting last December, many Jewish parents were removed for questioning Sutton’s support for the pro-Palestine walkout and social media posts rejecting Israel’s “settler-colonialism.”

Over the course of many months, both Maron and Sutton had faced complaints from teachers, community members and other parents about their behavior in their roles. (Hundreds of people also signed an online petition to have her removed from the school’s Parent Association.) Both parents were warned in April that they would be removed if their conduct did not change.

Maron rejected the warning — which did not cite any specific offending comments — at the time, saying, she “cannot possibly comply with a directive to cease doing something when that ‘something’ has never been communicated to me.”