Tom Horne says 'antisemitic' UNICEF & Amnesty International shouldn’t be in Az schools

Arizona’s schools chief is urging
public schools to disband student clubs sponsored by UNICEF and Amnesty
International after a pro-Palestine meeting at a Scottsdale high school
presented content that Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne
called antisemitic and despicable. 

“I have no authority to tell the
schools what to do on this, but I advise them to keep Amnesty
International and UNICEF out of their literature, their clubs out of
their schools (and) off of their campuses,” Horne said at a Nov. 8
press conference. “They generate antisemitism among impressionable young

Last week, the student-led chapters
of UNICEF and Amnesty International at Desert Mountain High School in
Scottsdale held a joint meeting during lunch to discuss the
Israel-Palestine conflict. A slideshow presentation compiled by Desert
Mountain students in both clubs accused Israel of numerous human rights
violations, including illegal occupation, apartheid and ethnic
cleansing. It was quickly disseminated on social media by right wing

UNICEF, or the United Nations
International Children’s Fund, is an agency of the United Nations that
focuses on providing humanitarian aid to children around the world and
has a presence in as many as 190 countries. Amnesty International is an
international nongovernmental organization that advocates for human

Horne, who is Jewish and said he lost
many family members in the Holocaust, responded by emailing school
superintendents across the state, warning them to avoid the
organizations and calling the slideshow “one-sided propaganda in favor
of Hamas terrorists.” 

In arguing against the merits of the
organizations, the Republican schools chief criticized UNICEF as being
“under the thumb” of the United Nations, which he claimed is dominated
by authoritarian regimes, and accused Amnesty International of being too
leftist. Failing to sanction UNICEF and Amnesty International, Horne
wrote, would invariably lead to further discrimination, while supporting
them amounted to giving aid to terrorists. 

“Giving aid and comfort to terrorists
is contrary to U.S. law. I urge you to consider keeping Amnesty
International and UNICEF, and their literature, off of your campuses,”
he wrote. 

Adam Brooks, a parent of a Desert
Mountain High student, dismissed concerns that censuring the groups
could violate freedom of speech protections. 

“We cannot confound the expression of
safe spaces with enabling a space that fosters misinformation, hatred
and political agendas,” he said.  

In an email sent shortly after the
uproar, Desert Mountain High School Principal Lisa Hirsch assured
parents that the students had not intended to promote antisemitism and
promised to more thoroughly review future presentations. 

“It is absolutely clear that these
students had no intention of promoting any form of Antisemitism,” Hirsch
wrote. “Their primary focus was to shed light on the humanitarian
crisis and discuss possible ways to address it. In the future, we will
have a stronger review process.” 

In an emailed statement, Kristine
Harrington, a spokesperson for Scottsdale Unified School District, told
the Arizona Mirror that clubs are student-driven and federal law
forbids schools that receive government assistance from restricting the
speech of students due to its religious, political or philosophical
content. While the district recognizes the concerns raised by the
meeting’s presentation, Harrington said the clubs would not be
eliminated, as doing so would break federal law. 

“The district would be violating its
limited open forum rules if it were to disband the UNICEF and Amnesty
International clubs or preclude students from meeting,” she said. “The
district oversees the activity to prevent disruption to the educational
environment but does not regulate the viewpoints of the student club

The district is currently working on
an “after-action review” to identify what could have been handled
differently and which safeguards to put in place to prevent future
learning disruptions, Harrington added.