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California school suspends student for saying ‘Free Palestine’

A woman holds a placard reading “Free Palestine” during a demonstration in support of the Palestinian people, in Barcelona on November 11, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

A US school has suspended a student for his pro-Palestine remarks amid the ongoing genocide in the Gaza Strip by Israeli occupant forces.

The school in Newport Beach, southern California, which has a history of scandals, suspended the 7th-grade Palestinian student for his remarks to a schoolmate that included the words “Free Palestine.”

Corona del Mar High School (CdM) officials and social media posts cited by US media on Saturday reported that the student was suspended for allegedly violating school codes prohibiting students from harassing and threatening other students amid increasing hate crimes.

A spokesperson for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, which owns CdM, confirmed the suspension of the student but declined to provide any details.

“While we cannot share specifics of the situation, due to student privacy, we assure you that appropriate action was taken based on the facts of what occurred,” Annette Franco wrote in a statement.

“We value students’ freedom of speech, but we will not tolerate hateful speech in our schools, especially not hate speech that incites others to engage in this negative behavior.”

The family of the student, who has been suspended for three days, could not be reached for comments.

However, a woman named ‘Zeina’ who claimed to be the student’s aunt, posted details about the incident with a photo of the suspension letter written by Jacob Haley, the principal at Corona Del Mar Middle and High School on Instagram.

In the post, she explained how her 13-year-old nephew had been called a “terrorist” by a female student.

Zeina said that her nephew had responded by saying to her several times, “Free Palestine.”

She also pointed out that the recent incident was not the first time that her nephew had been harassed by kids in school.

“Two weeks ago [he] was threatened with hate and racism comments by two Israeli students,” she wrote in her post. “The Israeli students told him to go back to your country which is [Palestine] and started laughing, saying oh too bad you don’t have a country it’s getting bombed.”

Zeina said her sister had reported the incident to the principal who told her he would speak to the two boys and that neither of them got suspended.

She also posted a video and photos of a book about the Israeli entity that had been placed on Haley’s desk, noting that he was biased.

In the suspension letter, Haley accused the student of allegedly violating two education codes that prohibit students from harassing and threatening other students.

“The incident that caused this suspension follows: [the student] said threatening remarks to a young lady in class. He said ‘Free Palestine’,” the suspension letter signed by Haley and posted by Zeina on Instagram reads.

CdM, a combination of a middle school (7th and 8th grades) and a high school (9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades), has been cited by US media for the school administration’s involvement in several scandals involving sexism and academic dishonesty.

The California school incident takes place as the Israeli regime forces have been relentlessly killing, bombing, and shelling defenseless Palestinians in the besieged Gaza strip for almost 40 days, cut off completely from water, food, medicine, and power.

The international community, in general, Arabs and Muslims, in particular, has expressed outrage over the ongoing genocide of the Gazans by the occupant forces, calling for an immediate ceasefire in the blockaded Palestinian territory.  

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