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Riverdale Private School Investigates Teacher Over Israel Comments

A history teacher at an elite Riverdale private school is being investigated after some parents took issue with statements he made about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to administrators and reports.

Riverdale Country School instructor Shawn Redden’s job was in limbo after he engaged students in a history class following the killing of 60 Gazans by Israeli soldiers during protests in May. Redden went on a “diatribe” against Israel, one parent told the New York Post.

School administrators said Redden is being investigated.

“At Riverdale Country School we believe that there should always be robust dialogue and debate of different points of view. At the same time, all community members –- students, faculty, and staff — must be treated at all times with respect as outlined specifically in our Principles of School Life,” said Head of School Dominic Randolph in a statement.

“When it appears that these principles may have been violated, we investigate immediately and take whatever actions may be required.”

Randolph declined to say if Redden had been suspended or terminated, or how long the investigation might last.

Redden declined to comment when contacted by the Forward and said he was not certain about his situation at the school.

The teacher cosigned a 2014 letter by the group Historians Against the War addressed to President Barack Obama, which deplored civilian deaths in Israel and Gaza, but also recognized “the disproportionate harm that the Israeli military, which the United States has armed and supported for decades, is inflicting on the population of Gaza.”

Redden penned a 2003 opinion piece while in graduate school that described a “brutalized Palestinian people living under a ruthless and illegal occupation.”

The teacher also reportedly took part in the Occupy Wall Street movement and was quoted in the New York Times during the height of the protests as advocating for OWS to make more specific demands, but did not specify the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as being a focus.

Redden’s suspension came several weeks after parents of students at Manhattan’s Beacon School expressed their outrage with a moment of silence for people killed in Gaza.

Several students at the school told the Forward they supported the school’s tribute and hundreds of parents and alumni later signed a letter supporting the school’s action.

An assistant principal the school later received a death threat over the moment of silence.

If you have more information about this story, contact Ben Fractenberg at [email protected] or on Twitter, @fractenberg

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