Berkeley Schools Superintendent to Testify Today on Capitol Hill

Testimony from Nemat Shafik, the president of Columbia University, offered the latest measure of just how much universities have changed their approach toward campus protests.Credit…Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for The New York Times

Divisions in one California school district will be thrust into the national spotlight today.

The superintendent of the Berkeley Unified School District, Enikia Ford Morthel, is set to appear before members of a congressional committee in the most recent round of Republican-led inquiries into campus antisemitism.

Though the House Committee on Education and the Workforce has grilled many university leaders in similar hearings, this will be the first time that primary and secondary school leaders have been the focus.

The Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel and the resulting war in Gaza have sown unusual tensions in Berkeley, a community known for progressive ideals and inclusiveness. There’s been controversy over how the Israel-Palestine conflict is taught in classrooms and over how the district has responded to claims of antisemitism. People on all sides now say they fear for their safety.

“There’s a definite fracture,” a parent in Berkeley told my colleague Kurt Streeter. “People who were just marching together for Black lives are now at each other’s throats.”

Read Kurt’s full article about how tensions exploded in the Berkeley public schools and what it may mean for the home of the free speech movement.

Ford Morthel is scheduled to testify along with the chancellor of the New York City schools and the president of the school board in Montgomery County, Md. The atmosphere is likely to be tense. Maladroit performances at similar hearings last year led to the resignations of the presidents of Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania.

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