An investigation is underway at Hillcrest High School after students stormed the hallways and put the school on lockdown as a Jewish teacher who had attended a pro-Israel rally was targeted, education officials have announced.
Teens at Hillcrest High in Jamaica walked out of class last Monday to protest the health staffer, who was seen at a pro-Israel rally off school premises, according to viral social media videos. Local politicians say she was forced to barricade herself in a room until the situation was under control.
“Our safety team is actively collaborating with the superintendent and principal to fully investigate the matter and protect the safety of both students and staff,” said Schools Chancellor David Banks on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“Every student, teacher, and staff member deserves to feel safe at school,” he continued, “and it is our responsibility to ensure that the right tools are in place to make this a reality through de-escalation and fostering opportunities for open dialogue that leaves hate at the door.”
Banks, a Hillcrest alum who has visited the school multiple times for various announcements, was expected to address the incident at a press conference on Monday afternoon.
“When a protest brakes [sic] out because a teacher stands with Israel,” read one of the videos on TikTok, as students charged through the hallways, jumping up and down.
“POV: your school had 1 lockdown multiple fights and riots js bc of a teacher that chose to wake up one day and choose … Zionism and occupation,” read another clip on the platform.
The caption included a threat: “YO IF HER A** COME BACK IN THAT BUILDING,” followed by a skull death symbol and praying hands emojis.
“Hillcrest high school had a riot because a Health teacher was supporting Israel,” read another, depicting at least two students holding Palestinian flags.
The original videos appeared to have been deleted by Monday morning. A social media post advertising a rally against antisemitism at Hillcrest had also been removed from Twitter.
The school had to go on lockdown during the protest, according to an email Tuesday from Principal Scott Milczewski to staff obtained by the Daily News. He said additional police and school safety agents were present, while deans had their teaching posts covered to focus on the events.
A photo of the teacher, re-shared by students on TikTok, shows her at a rally with the sign “I stand with Israel” and surrounded by other demonstrators holding Israeli flags.
The incident came just weeks after an initial tally of 770 public school students walked out of class on Nov. 9 to demand an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
“The vile show of antisemitism at Hillcrest High School was motivated by ignorance-fueled hatred, plain and simple,” said Mayor Adams on Saturday, “and it will not be tolerated in any of our schools, let alone anywhere else in our city. We are better than this.”
Adams said local organizations through Project Pivot, whose focuses may include violence interruption and other social services, will begin outreach with students at Hillcrest this week “to ensure they understand why this behavior was unacceptable.”