Hundreds Walkout of Wagner High School Protesting Climate of Anti-Palestinian Sentiment

As many as 400 students rallied in protest of Wagner's suppression of pro-Palestine views on school premises.

Hundreds Walkout of Wagner High School Protesting Climate of Anti-Palestinian Sentiment
Students at Susan E. Wagner High School listen to Rabbi Yisroel Weiss on why the existence of Zionist Israel is antithetical to Judaism (Wagnerstudents4Palestine, 2024)

Students led a walkout from Susan E. Wagner High School, and met with community supporters on Friday, March 15 characterizing an anti-Palestinian climate within the school. The student action was supported by the Palestinian Youth Movement, Palestinian Assembly for Liberation, PAL-AWDA Mothers' Committee, the NYC Branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, PAL-AWDA NY/NJ, and Neturei Karta, a Jewish anti-Zionist group.

The students, once gathered along Brielle Ave, distributed copies of their grievances with Wagner HS to the crowd. "I first want to start off by saying how proud I am of every single one of you, for having the courage to come out and speak for what you believe in," said a student during the rally. She continued, "I am a student here just like all of you, but primarily I am a Muslim Palestinian and I am proud of that regardless of who tries to take that away from me." Students pointed to a rule that was issued in the days following October 7 banning all flags on school premises. They claim that family inquiries to Wagner's administration pointed them to the NYC Department of Education as issuing the rule. The NYC Department of Education declined to comment on whether they issued a rule around flags, and if not, if they had reminded schools explicitly of student's right to express themselves except where the dress is dangerous, interferes with the teaching and learning process, or violates the DOE’s anti-discrimination policy.

Students march to SI JCC (Wagnerstudents4Palestine, 2024)

While Wagner students were made to swipe out as they exited the school for attendance purposes, the school was de facto monitoring participation in the walkout.

The seemingly anti-Palestinian/anti-Arab climate being fostered at Susan Wagner HS includes:

  • Reports that faculty member, Rachel Monaco faced counseling after claims to students that keffiyehs - traditional Palestinian square scarves - were "disgusting" and that, "supporting Palestine is supporting terrorism."
  • Since October 7, members of Wagner's Arab Student Association have claimed they are receiving increased monitoring, with a representative from the principal's office now attending all meetings, in addition to the typical faculty advisor.
  • Wagner High School partnered with the local Staten Island Jewish Community Center to raise funds in solidarity with Israel, after declining to allow a fundraiser for Gaza. After initially denying the claims, Wagner ultimately relented and shut down the fundraiser.

In a comment that seemingly disregards trauma-informed mental health practice, students spoke of an incident where Principal David Cugini told students he couldn't understand "why you need to bring what's happening in your country into school." The DOE's press office declined to comment on whether students are encouraged to compartmentalize their experiences and leave them at the property line of the DOE.

The Grievances of Wagner Students (Wagnerstudents4Palestine, 2024)

A group of Zionist sympathizers in the single-digits countered the student action, across the street from the school, shouting profanity at, and even assaulting some students.

Students at New Dorp High School similarly led a walkout on Friday, March 22 in support of Palestine.