Jewish parents decry ‘tone-deaf’ APS statement on Hamas attack, Gaza war

Atlanta Public Schools leaders have released two statements in recent days in the wake of the Hamas attack on Israel and the conflict in Gaza, but some Jewish parents are still unhappy with what the district has and hasn't said. (Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Atlanta Public Schools leaders have released two statements in recent days in the wake of the Hamas attack on Israel and the conflict in Gaza, but some Jewish parents are still unhappy with what the district has and hasn't said. (Jason Getz /

Some Jewish parents are dismayed that the Atlanta school system’s response to the Hamas attack on Israel didn’t more forcefully condemn the act and say a subsequent statement has done little to address the criticism.

School district leaders have released two statements in recent days, the second of which came after APS received letters from parents expressing their dissatisfaction with the first statement.

The first statement, on Oct. 13, says: “The Atlanta Public Schools community is no stranger to the universal struggle for justice and equality. During the fight for freedom and civil rights in the American South, students in our school district nonviolently protested for a more humane society.

“APS is heartbroken by the violence facing children and families in the Middle East. We are hopeful for a peaceful resolution of these complex geopolitical issues that will allow children in this part of the world to learn and grow in safety and stability.”

Hamas launched a deadly attack and took civilian hostages. Israel’s military responded with airstrikes in Gaza. The Gaza Health Ministry said 2,778 Palestinians have been killed and 9,700 wounded, according to The Associated Press. More people in Gaza are believed to be buried under rubble. The AP reports that more than 1,400 Israelis have been killed, and at least 199 others, including children, were captured by Hamas and taken into Gaza, according to Israel.

More than 100 parents signed a letter to interim Superintendent Danielle Battle saying they were “heartbroken, disappointed, and insulted” by the statement and asked her to make a different one.

“We ask that when you do make another public statement you reiterate that there is no place for hate in APS schools,” the letter said. “We ask that you address security concerns and offer resources to families directly affected by these attacks. We want to know what additional measures will be implemented to ensure their safety.”

Rabbi Ilan Schwartz, who has young children in APS, was disheartened by the initial statement. The concerns of Schwartz’s and others about the response was that it didn’t describe the attack as terrorism and seemed to ignore the pain Jewish students may be feeling as a result.

“The fact that there were APS students who participated in ... civil rights protests and whatnot ... it’s great that APS students did that, but it’s not, this is not the same,” he said. “It was tone-deaf.”

“There was another few sentences that APS just didn’t include,” Schwartz also said.

Battle issued a letter to families, which pointed to resources to help them talk about war and offered words of support.

“To our APS Families, The loss of life in Israel and Gaza and the continued escalation of events has shaken our APS community and indeed the world. We want all our families, students, and staff who are hurting or fearing for their loved ones or themselves to know that we stand with you and that support is available. We are committed to keeping our children safe and encourage us all to treat each other with respect and empathy as we are one humanity,” the statement began.

However, some said the statement — which didn’t include an apology — still missed the mark.

“It is OK to ... name the fact that there was terrorism driven by antisemitism,” said Emily Kaiman, an APS parent and Jewish educator. “That is a real fear in our community.”

The Hamas attack has many Atlanta Jewish parents concerned about safety, who also note incidents of antisemitic violence have increased in the U.S. in recent years.

Dov Wilker, regional director of the American Jewish Committee Atlanta, said he was contacted by APS parents who were upset by the statement and Battle’s follow-up. He said both statements fell short, especially in a district that prioritizes equity.

“School districts always talk about all of their students,” he said. “In fact, what they did was minimize the Jewish students in this by not calling out what actually happened.”

APS spokesman Seth Coleman said Tuesday afternoon that the district currently has no further response. “Our focus is on providing all of our students and employees with safe, secure and engaging environments where they can learn, work and thrive,” he said.