School reprimands Jewish teen for 'bullying' after posting anti-Israel tweets

Administration officials at the school said that she could be formally charged under New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, which could lead to suspension or expulsion.

By JTA
January 9, 2016 02:29
1 minute read.
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Demonstrators step on the national flag during an anti-Israel protest in front of the Israeli Embassy in Bangkok last year.. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

 
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A New Jersey high school student — reportedly a Jewish-Israeli — is facing possible bullying charges stemming from Twitter posts that school administrators called anti-Israel.

An assistant principal at Fair Lawn High told Bethany Koval, 16, on Wednesday that she could be formally charged under New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, which could lead to suspension or expulsion from school, the Gothamist reported. The matter has been referred to the superintendent of schools.

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In tweets about the 2014 Gaza war and the Israeli-Palestinian situation, Koval called Israel a “terrorist force” and said “Hamas is not extreme.” Another post on the social media site expressed happiness that a pro-Israel classmate had unfollowed her. Koval did not identify the student, but told a friend she would provide the name in a private message.

In a tweet, Koval said she does not believe that to be bullying.

“Her name was never mentioned. I never degraded her. They use ‘bullying’ as a guise to cover their pro-Israel, pro-censorship agenda,” she wrote.

Koval surreptitiously recorded parts of a meeting she had with a school administrator over the bullying accusations in which she called her tweets about Israel “controversial,” but not “problematic.”

“Well, that’s your interpretation,” the administrator responded. “There’s a state law that might interpret it differently.”

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Koval, who goes by the nickname “Benny,” was identified by The New York Times as a Jewish-Israeli. The Gothamist, which first reported the controversy, said she grew up in Fair Lawn, a New York City suburb, and has family in Israel.

The teen has received a great deal of support on Twitter, where she has nearly 6,000 followers, many of whom now using the hashtag #IStandWithBenny. The international hacking group Anonymous also has backed Koval.

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