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Math teacher told to remove Palestinian flag from classroom; students walk out in protest

Student placards included ‘intifada intifada,’ ‘Teachers for a Free Palestine’

Students at a North Carolina high school recently protested a math teacher’s absence after school administrators had asked her to remove a Palestinian flag from her classroom.

The Riverside High School student newspaper reported that a photo of Kayla Thompson in front of the flag was taken down from the school’s social media following several complaints, according to The News & Observer.

Critics had commented “This kind of propaganda should not be allowed in the classroom,” “She certainly isn’t creating a safe environment for her Jewish students,” and “That is highly inappropriate and awful for her Jewish students to have to deal with in the classroom,” the school paper reported.

One of Thompson’s students said she had had the flag in her classroom “for a really long time”; another said Thompson merely “saw that people in Palestine were hurting and she wanted to voice her support.”

School officials eventually asked Thompson (pictured) to take down the flag, which she did on March 19. But she then left campus and hasn’t yet returned.

A Durham Public Schools official would not say if Thompson left on her own accord or was asked to leave, citing “state personnel privacy laws.”

MORE: UNC Arab student group holds sit-in, demands Palestinian flag hang at business school

About 30 of Thompson’s students walked out of class on March 22 to “express themselves peacefully” — with permission from Riverside administrators. They held placards reading “Teachers for a Free Palestine,” “intifada intifada,” and “Free Free Palestine.”

Photo: a group of students protest outside of a school, holding signs that say "teachers for a free palestine," "free free palestine," "intifada intifada," and "Is this scary DPS?"

A freshman held a sign stating “Durham for a Free Palestine! Palestine Will Free Us! End the Genocide!!!!!!” The first-year said “It’s not fair. We’re standing for [Thompson] because she can’t do it by herself.”

Other students protested at lunch time, and one of Thompson’s classes redrew the Palestinian flag on a whiteboard.

Neither Thompson nor Riverside officials would comment on the matter, but the former told the school paper she “hope[d] to speak about the incident soon.”

Riverside HS is 39 percent Hispanic, 29 percent black, and 26 percent white. Forty-nine percent of the student body is proficient in math and 42 percent in reading.

MORE: U. Maryland groups plant 3,000 flags to remember lives lost in ‘Palestine’

IMAGES: Eli Meyerhoff/X; News & Observer/Facebook

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.