Breaking News

2018-07-02 - A contentious school board meeting and a letter from the ADL were the aftereffects of the NPS' second "Middle East Day", at which at least two anti-Israel films were shown and students heard from at least one anti-Israel speaker. The NPS had reportedly promised after last year's "Middle East Day" that either the event would not be held or that its contents would be reviewed in advance. There has been no comment as of yet from the NPS.

2017-10-27 - A letter from the ADL to Newton Superintendent David Fleishman congratulated the school system for its "determination prior to the 2015-16 year that the Middle East curriculum should be changed" and its decision not to utilize the "previously used materials". (Precisely which materials was not specified).

The ADL has not made this letter or its new-found concern about the NPS curriculum public; and the reason why is clear.  Certainly the NPS did not "determin[e] prior to the 2015-2016 year" that the curriculum was unsuitable; a look back at the events of the spring and summer of 2016 shows the NPS continuing to ignore widely expressed concerns about the curriculum and school officials' threats to retaliate against teachers who urged the NPS to report anti-semitic incidents to the police.  

The letter leaves it to the NPS to contact the ADL if they need help and has no provisions for ensuring the NPS follows up with its promises. In the past, the NPS has not been truthful with respect to its statements and promises, and it appears doubtful that any meaningful change will be made unless it is forced to do so. Nor is likely that the ADL, which until the date of this private letter has been adamant that there is 'no problem' with materials used in NPS classrooms. Unfortunately, it appears as if the letter was written as a result of public pressure and that the ADL has no real intention of mandating curricula change.

10/25/17 - The use of inaccurate and biased materials in Newton high school World History classes has received increasing publicity over the past few months. Articles in the nationally-read blogs Algemeiner, Legal Insurrection, and American Thinker have addressed the issue and the role local organizations play in combating anti-semitic bias. 

It's important to consider that although the above media is generally considered politically moderate or conservative, promoting the use of accurate and non-biased class materials is not a political issue, but an educational one. PENS members include families of several religions and a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Our sole purpose is to provide students with material from balanced and respected academic sources. Material from websites or texts with an overt political, ethnic, or religious bias should only be used if the source and bias of those materials is disclosed and contrasting viewpoints addressed; they should never be cited as "factual" as is the case now.

7/6/17 - A book about inappropriate class materials used by students in Newton Public Schools and elsewhere, written by Steven Stotsky, a Senior Researcher at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), has been published. Indoctrinating our Youth: How a U.S. Public Schools Curriculum Skews the Arab-Israeli and Islam analyzes class materials and provides an excellent background of how awareness of the problem arose. It's available at Amazon, the Newton library, and other libraries throughout the nation. If your library doesn't have a copy, ask them to purchase one.

12/30/16 - The Jewish Advocate published a letter by PENS co-president Evan Jacobi regarding the continued use of anti-Israel materials in Newton schools. You can find the letter here.

8/18/16 - The U.S. Department of Education has ruled that the NPS violated federal law when School Committee Chair (then Vice-Chair) Matthew Hills sent confidential student information to the media for publication. A letter to a parent from the Massachusetts education department, regarding their minor child, was published in a Boston-area newspaper and two blogs. The letter included the child's name, the name of the child's parent, their address, and other confidential information.

The DOE did not impose any sanctions on Hills or the NPS because they had already been "sanctioned" by having to review Massachusetts educational law by state education department (Note: Hills and other School Committee members attend training sessions on student confidentiality law and other legal issues when appointed). 

In the meantime, the family whose confidentiality was breached has spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours attempting to remove the confidential information from the internet, where it has remained for nearly three years. Mayor Setti Warren refused to help the family in any way despite and other residents.  

Jewish agencies, including agencies devoted to "combating anti-semitism", have also refused to help, possibly because School Committee member Matthew Hills is related to ADL staff and because of animosity towards Charles Jacobs, whose organization Americans for Peace and Tolerance published misleading and inaccurate information about the texts.

6/10/16 - An article by Evan Jacobi, "Founder of 'Mayors Against Anti-Semitism' Fails to Support Jewish Family Victimized by Anti-Semitic Retaliation" is on a blog published by Dr. Richard Swier. 

4/14/16 - The Jewish Journal of the North Shore (MA) has published excellent reports on a 'Community Forum' held in Newton on April 7th and other issues related to the school curriculum, including an editorial by PENS president Evan Jacobi.  The Boston-area Jewish Advocate has also published several articles about the issue.

3/28/16 - Residents who attended tonight's School Committee meeting can find more information about the illegal retaliation against students and their families by the Newton Public Schools (NPS) and School Committee Chair Matthew Hills on this page. A redacted copy of the Retaliation Complaint against the NPS and Hills, and the decision by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) that the NPS and Hills acted illegally are here

The retaliation has set back our progress considerably because residents understandably do not want to endanger their children or grandchildren. As long there are no sanctions for the retaliatory acts, the intimidation and indoctrination of Newton students and their parents will continue.

3/23/15 - We have nearly completed our upload of documents analyzed in the Verity Educate report to our library at www.scribd.com [Update: the material is now here]. We chose scribd because it allows notes to be incorporated with the document.  We also uploaded a number of newspaper articles.

Our next project will be to more fully develop instances of anti-Muslim bias in Newton classrooms.

1/6/15 - PENS has reached out to the Asian-American community with respect to stereotypes and bias about Asians in Newton schools. The matter came to public attention in 2014 with the production of the play "Thoroughly Modern Millie" by the Newton North High School Theater Department. The play contains caricatured and demeaning depictions of persons of Asian ancestry, leading some students to avoid working on the production and the recognition that bias and stereotypes still exist.

The play's faculty director said that the play was used to teach students about racial stereotypes and that the school tried to depict the characters as "fully developed human beings".

Other schools which produced the play obtained permission to revise the script to present Asian-Americans in a more realistic and positive manner.

12/1/14 - PENS members met today with NPS officials Cynthia Bergan, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning; Jennifer Price, Principal of Newton North High School; Jonathan Bassett, Chair of the History Department at Newton North.

The ostensible purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Verity Educate Report and the NPS response to its findings. However, were told at the meeting that no NPS official, including those present, had reviewed the Report, and that there were no plans to do so.

Apparently, school officials have no intention of removing even doctored primary source materials from classrooms.  Further action is needed to ensure that Newton students receive accurate information with respect to Middle East history and religions which arose in that region.

Additional information and a letter to Ms. Bergan, Ms. Price, and Mr. Bassett may be found here.

9/24/14 - A PENS member has come forward about the retaliation she and her child experienced as a result of her work exposing biased and inaccurate class materials in Newton schools. She did not speak out before due to fear of additional retaliation and the need to spend her time and energy ameliorating the consequences of the Newton Public Schools' (NPS') retaliatory acts, which put her children at physical and emotional risk. 

Additional information is in the sections Retaliation against Students and Additional Illegal Acts.

9/4/14 - The independent research organization Verity Educate  has issued an extensive report on materials used in Newton high school history classes. The report describes numerous examples of grossly inaccurate and/or biased material used in Newton classrooms, including a falsified version of the Palestinian National Charter presented to students as accurate, an anti-Israel timeline described as 'neutral', a set of maps designed to support an anti-Israel narrative, extremist views presented as moderate, and additional examples.

We very much appreciate Verity Educate's interest in the situation in Newton, and thank the many scholars and researchers who devoted their time to this project. We could not have received better or more responsive support anywhere.

5/24/14 - It has come to our attention that teachers may still be using the Arab World Studies Notebook in high school history classes, despite the fact that the text was supposedly removed from the curriculum in June, 2012. If true, this would be a devastating indictment of the lack of trustworthiness of NPS administrators.

Update: It has been confirmed that at least one teacher has continued to use the book two years after it was supposedly 'removed'. The NPS rejected our request to send more than one memorandum of the decision to teachers.  This is one of the effects of the NPS's refusal to perform any review, ever, of material used in classes and school libraries. Superintendent David Fleishman indicated that the continued use resulted from an 'oversight'.

5/2/14 - The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has determined that NPS School Committee Matthew Hills violated state law when he transmitted confidential information pertaining to a PENS member and child to media entities. 

1/13/14 - It's likely that more visitors will be reading this in the next few days. Right now we don't have the resources to interface with the schools and NPS administrators, or update this website, to the extent we would like. If you are able to help in with the website (no technical skills required) or support our goal to ensure Newton students learn from accurate, unbiased sources, please email us at

The advertisements published in October 2013 remain controversial. The ADL castigated the ads and continues to claim there is 'no problem' with Newton high school class materials on the Middle East. While the ADL is correct that much of what the ads claimed was inaccurate, this does not mean that concerns about the class material are illusory. Unfortunately, the ADL and other Boston-area Jewish organizations - the American Jewish Committee (AJC), Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), and Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) - are uninterested in hearing about parent's concerns. The pattern of refusing to speak with or read about valid concerns and then claim that one is unaware of any 'problems' does not service the community, students, or the organizations themselves.

In late November 2013, the ADL told the newspaper Jewish Advocate that it had conducted a review of the materials discussed in the APT advertisements but refused to it, stating it was "private". ADL officials said that the public should accept their contention that there was nothing wrong with the materials and that there was no need for further review or questions. However, the ADL also admitted that it never asked the NPS about at least one item of material criticized by several organizations because he did not personally know whether it had been used in Newton classrooms. Later, a different ADL official said the report did not exist.


After the ADL continued to withhold the report despite numerous requests from organizations and a public outcry, and having received several different accounts of the report which changed over time, the Jewish Advocate questioned whether the report existed at all. It also quoted a pro-Israel advocate who whether there was a report at all, and also questioned the ADL's integrity with respect to a controversy at Northeastern University. In response, the ADL stopped advertising in the Jewish Advocate.

In late December 2013, the ADL produced an undated "report" of just over three pages containing numerous inaccuracies about the material reviewed. The combined behavior of the ADL, APT, and other Jewish institutions damaged relations between organizations which should be working together, not attacking each other, and seriously damaged the reputation of all groups involved.

10/29/13 - The controversy over the advertisement published by the groups Open Newton Schools ("ONS") and Americans for Peace and Tolerance ("APT") in several Massachusetts newspapers has brought the work done by those groups to our attention. In our opinion, the published advertisement is misleading and inaccurate. It presents material inaccurately and implies that students used material and texts which in fact were not used. In addition, personal attacks do not help our attempt to form a working relationship with school administrators. 

We disapprove of the advertisement and have no connection to its publication.

7/1/13 - The Committee on Accuracy in Reporting in the Middle East in America (CAMERA), a respected media organization, has released an analysis about anti-Israel material used in Newton schools. The analysis, titled Misinforming Students on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, is on the front page of CAMERA's website [Update: now online here] and has been republished in several newspapers.

6/21/13 - The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has launched an investigation into the review policy for classroom materials in Newton Schools. The investigation came about as a result of a complaint by a PENS member.

12/9/12 - The Newton North history department has decided to address one of the numerous inaccuracies in the book A Muslim Primer, used in 9th grade history classes. The passage in question, which declares that the Catholic Church is "reconsider[ing] polygamy as a Christian option", was brought to the attention of the school by a parent. The school's response is to have teachers "white out" the passage because it "might be misleading". 
  
10/10/12 - The Newton North High School Library has agreed to remove a link to the website Flashpoints (now defunct), which was listed as a reference source on the library's website. The site contains inaccurate, biased, and arguably anti-semitic material as well as numerous spelling and grammatical errors. The library explained that Flashpoints was owned by a different organization at the time it was added to the list of library resources. 

An example of material on the Flashpoints website is here.

We appreciate the library's attention to the matter and quick response to parent concerns. The incident, however, illustrates the compelling need for a periodic review of both classroom and library resources. 

7/18/12 - Two PENS members met with NPS Deputy Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Dr. Ann Koufman Frederick about our concerns regarding inaccurate and biased school materials. Dr. Frederick was given information about materials used by students, including specific examples, both prior to and at the meeting.

Dr. Frederick's response was extremely disappointing.  She denied there was any problem with school materials and stated that there was no need for correction or review. She also said that parents had no right to review their children's educational materials at all (contrary to NPS, state, and federal policy), that she was not responsible for overseeing student material despite her title and designated responsibilities; and that the parents unhappy with the current situation "should find another school for [their] children".

See this page for further details and a letter sent to Dr. Frederick about the meeting.

7/5/12 - The Newton School Department recently announced that the Arab World Studies Notebook would no longer be used in Newton schools. We appreciate Superintendent Fleishman's decision to remove the Notebook from the curriculum, and look forward to working with school administrators to ensure that students receive the balanced and challenging education they deserve.

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