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What follows is an open letter written to Ms. Jahoda on behalf of three student clubs.
Dear Interim Acting Principal Jahoda,
The Muslim Student Association (MSA), the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA), and the No Buddy Left Behind (NBLB) club are coming together with the hopes of making our stances clear on where we stand, which is not on your side.
Tomorrow, as the C-30 commences within our school, we hope that our future school leader will be truly fit for the role, so we ask that, if you have received an interview, you withdraw your name out of the C-30 candidate’s pool.
Though we will make our cases separately, we speak as one. Here are the thoughts of the GSA.
We, the GSA condemn your behavior, Ms. Jahoda, when you (as a teacher at Stuyvesant) made fun of a student who refused to speak while she was participating in the Day of Silence. The Day of Silence is an event that students partake in to pay respects to the many LGBTQ lives that have been lost through bullying, unacceptance and hate crimes. Mocking a student is a harsh gesture to not only the students, but also to the LGBTQ community as a whole. This event is meant to unify those who have experienced hate crimes, bullying and unacceptance with those who have lost their lives to it. Students wear a card around their necks explaining the purpose of this silent protest in order to educate and promote respect among the public for these causes.
Your excuse to The Classic is that you didn’t know what the Day of Silence was. You said, “I can tell you it was a misunderstanding on my part. I was not aware of [nor] had knowledge of the day of silence meaning.”
According to the article, this student was wearing a card explaining the Day of Silence. Yet, you still didn’t find it necessary to curb your sarcasm and rather used it as a weapon, demeaning the student.
You cannot keep hiding from criticism of your own wrongdoings by hiding under the blanket of ignorance and miscommunication.
Realize that these actions set a precedent within a diverse school community of intolerance and ignorance.
Therefore, you, Ms. Jahoda have no excuse.
Such blatant disrespect of a student’s right of expression, especially when it regards such a grave situation, are not the the ideal qualities of a principal in a school that strives to make itself a safe place.
Now, here are the thoughts of the MSA:
When you asked the MSA to speak with you after a hateful incident on November 8, we were expecting a way to move forward. We were hurt and scared, but rather than comforting us, you made us feel more unsupported. We left your office wishing to never return. We felt you tried to blame our advisor, Assistant Principal Ellen Fee, for the event, as if she were at fault for not being present at the bake sale (which was held with school safety agents right next to us). Our advisor has done nothing but help us while you only make things more difficult. It is truly astounding, and attests to how corrupt the system is, that AP Ellen Fee and AP Susan Brustein were denied interviews for the principal’s job.
Our school environment has changed for the worse in only a few months under your leadership, and this cannot continue. We restrict our after school activities because we are uncomfortable with this new environment. We watch our school newspaper be attacked by the very people who are supposed to defend us. We watch as an official comes to the school and disrespects the students, as the DOE does nothing to help us.
And so, we would like you to know we are not on your side. As we said: “An apology does not respect a life that has been lost.”
Finally, here are the thoughts from No Buddy Left Behind.
As the Founder and former President of No Buddy Left Behind, a club that seeks to build friendships and promote equal opportunity among the students of Townsend Harris and the students of P.S. 255 in Room 412, I know all too well the frustration and difficulty that arises when it feels like no one else cares about accommodating for students with special needs.
When I established my club during my junior year, I was deeply moved by the support that my peers, teachers, assistant principals, and former principal Mr. Anthony Barbetta showed me as my club members and I contributed our time and effort in getting to know the students of P.S. 255 and bridging the divide between our two student bodies. Because of the opportunities they all gave us in pushing this movement forward, NBLB helped cultivate the inclusive, all-embracing culture that has defined THHS for decades. I graduated last year confident and hopeful that the club would continue thriving in this culture and that our school would remain the safe haven it always was for all students.
I am deeply unsettled by the allegations of Bronx Science alumna Eva Hangartner and the open letter written by Ms. Brandeis, the English and Instructional Support teacher THHS is so fortunate to have. In Ms. Brandeis’s letter and according to the follow-up reporting of The Classic, it is apparent that you have not prioritized the our students with special needs.
Ms. Jahoda, by not prioritizing the rights of students with special needs, you have refused to uphold the traditions and virtues that form the foundation of our school. As an alumna, I cannot stand by silently and watch while our school continues on this backward trajectory of closing off groups of people you do not want to administer. A principal should be a principal for all students, not for those you choose.
I simply cannot understand how an administrator who refuses to carry out simple, yet crucial, tasks to meet the needs of every student can claim to serve and prioritize the students.
I cannot understand how an administrator who allegedly denied support to a student who was simply asking for basic accommodations for her needs can possibly take on the most important role of leadership at THHS.
This is not what our school is about. It doesn’t matter what a student’s background is, where a student is from, what limitations or needs a student has, or what dreams and aspirations a student has for his or her future. It has never mattered, and it never will. This school has always willingly embraced the responsibility of helping each and every student access resources and receive opportunities crucial to achieving whatever he or she is striving for. We cannot allow anyone who threatens this core value that has sustained generations of incredible graduates tear down the progress we have all made together.
Thus, the students of the GSA, MSA, and NBLB have come together to make clear that there is no way forward.
We ask that you withdraw your name from consideration if you were given an interview, and allow other candidates to make their case. We understand that you’ve made attempts to reach out to communities you have offended to rebuild relationships. This is our way of saying: it is too late.
The Muslim Student Association
The Gender and Sexuality Alliance
Zion Kim, Class of ‘16, Founder/former President of NBLB