Stefanik grills NYC schools chief on pro-Hamas teacher kept on payroll after antisemitic riot

House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., grilled New York City Public Schools Chancellor David Banks on Wednesday about a pro-Hamas teacher and the principal of Hillcrest High School, where an antisemitic riot unfolded in the hallways following the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in southern Israel, having so far remained on the payroll despite promised consequences. 

During a line of questioning by Rep. Brandon Williams, R-N.Y., Banks testified before the House Education and the Workforce Committee that the former principal of Hillcrest High School in the Jamaica Hills neighborhood of Queens, still draws a paycheck from New York City Public Schools months after approximately 400 students roved the halls on Nov. 20, demanding the ouster of a Jewish educator after learning she attended a rally in support of Israel. 

Stefanik doubled down on Banks, who repeatedly said the principal was “removed” from that role but was not terminated by the department. Banks said he could not confirm whether the former Hillcrest High School principal now serves as director of teacher development and evaluation, and Stefanik demanded clarification on his new role by the end of the day. 

“That’s concerning to me that you have him in a senior position, and what’s very concerning about these hearings is that we’re getting lip service but a lack of enforcement, a lack of accountability,” Stefanik said. “And these rules and policies matter whether it’s teachers, administrators or students violating the rules.”

Stefanik also pointed to Origins High School in Brooklyn, where reports claimed 40 to 50 students in October marched through the hallways chanting “Death to Israel” and “Kill the Jews.” 


David Banks, chancellor of New York City Public schools, answers a question during a House subcommittee hearing on antisemitism in K-12 public schools on May 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The congresswoman said an “independent investigation found that a teacher, who teaches global history, was told by a student, ‘I wish you were killed’” and “another student called her ‘a dirty Jew,’ and the student said he wished Hitler could have hit more Jews, including her.”

But Banks said a New York City Public Schools probe “found no evidence that there was any movement through the halls saying ‘Death to the Jews.’”

“And I treat that very, very seriously. That was reported in the papers,” Banks said. “We have found no evidence that that actually happened. What we have found are a wide range of deeply troubling, antisemitic things that have happened at Origins High School. This is the one case that has troubled me the most, Congresswoman, I will tell you that.”     

Banks said a “number of students” were suspended from Origins High School, but the case is “now is under litigation.” 

“I’m being advised not to speak to the specific things that have happened there, but just know that I have visited that school after these allegations have come up,” he said. “I’ve met with parents, families, staff, students. I’m deeply troubled by what is happening there, and we’re going to get to the bottom of it. I can’t say more because this is now under litigation.”

“You understand our concern, though, as policymakers,” Stefanik said, “when we have witnesses testify, whether it’s Columbia University, Penn, Harvard or New York City … when there’s a lack of enforcement and accountability, that there is a set of rules but that individuals who violate those rules are not held accountable.”

Stefanik holds up photo of Hamas paraglider posted by NYC teacher

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., holds up a printout that she said was from a New York City public schoolteacher’s social media account on May 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

In the fiery exchange, Stefanik also pressed for information on “teacher-led walkouts,” but Banks said he was only aware of student walkouts. 

Stefanik noted that a teacher at Gotham Tech High School in Queens posted images of a Hamas paraglider on his social media and repeatedly referred to “so-called Israel.’” 

“This is highlighting a Hamas paraglider who slaughtered Jews – we all have seen the horrific footage – who cooked babies. These are terrorists. What disciplinary action has been taken against this teacher?” she asked.


“First of all, I [just want] to say I think what that employee did was absolutely disgusting, absolutely disgusting,” Banks responded, but he repeatedly declined to specify what action was taken against the teacher.

“I cannot give you, on this specific employee; we did in fact take action,” he said.

Stefanik retorted, “You can give us an answer. You’re choosing not to. That’s unacceptable.”

Banks and other school K-12 administrators sit before congressional antisemitism hearing

David Banks, chancellor of New York City Public schools, speaks during a House subcommittee hearing on antisemitism in K-12 public schools on May 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

“We suspended a number of students who were the leaders at Hillcrest High School, No. 1,” Banks said earlier. “No. 2, we removed the principal of that school for lack of leadership and oversight. I don’t know how to make it much clearer. I condemn clearly – what happened at Hillcrest was a complete act of antisemitism. It will not stand on my watch. We responded. And I don’t know how to make it in English.”

The committee summoned school administrators from New York, California and Maryland to testify about how antisemitic protests and harassment have impacted K-12 education, beyond college campuses alone.

Banks testified that since Oct. 7, New York City Public Schools has removed, disciplined or is in the process of disciplining at least a dozen staff and school leaders, including the removal of a principal in the middle of a school year. He said the school system also suspended at least 30 students and has involved the NYPD when hate crimes are committed. Banks testified that all 1,600 principals have been retrained on the discipline code.

“Keeping schools safe is in my DNA. When antisemitism rears its head, I believe we must respond,” Banks said, noting “New York City is home to the largest Jewish community outside of Israel.”


“Since Oct. 7, our students and staff — Jewish and Muslim, Israeli and Palestinian — have suffered immensely,” Banks testified earlier Wednesday. “We’ve had 281 incidents since Oct. 7, approximately 42% were antisemitic and 30% were Islamophobic. And so this is an issue that rages on both sides. We take every single one of those very, very seriously. We investigate, and then we initiate the appropriate level of conduct.”


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