Palestinian-American Student Expelled Over Mom’s Online Support for Gaza

Jad Abughamda was forced out of his private school after his mom, who also worked there, said on Instagram that the war on Gaza began before Oct. 7.

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Palestinian-American Student Expelled Over Mom’s Online Support for Gaza

A Palestinian-American student named Jad Abughamda has been expelled from his private high school, Pine Crest School, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida because his mom posted support for Gaza on social media, the school confirmed this week. Maha Almasri, a Palestinian-American woman and the 15-year-old’s mother, also worked at Pine Crest as a math tutor. Her son’s expulsion comes after he was suspended over her posts around Thanksgiving. Abughamda has been barred from attending school for the last month.

Per local news station WTSP, Almasri’s posts, which she made on her personal social accounts, haven’t been made public by her or the school. But the school says it took particular issue with posts that said Israel’s war on Gaza began before October 7, as well as posts that included “an image of a soldier pointing a machine gun at an infant inside of an incubator.” According to WTSP, the school said these posts threatened to disrupt the school’s learning environment and accused Almasri of inciting violence and threatening campus safety.

Israeli forces have killed at least 18,787 Palestinians in Gaza and injured at least 50,000 more since October 7, when Hamas attacks killed an estimated 1,200 Israelis and kidnapped about 240. According to local media, Almasri’s posts invoked the history of conflict between Israel and Palestinians, which includes 15,000 Palestinians killed and 750,000 displaced from their homeland by Israel in 1948. Almasri’s post that allegedly showed a soldier pointing a machine gun at a baby in an incubator seems to reference reports that preterm babies in Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital died as a result of Israel’s blockade and siege on the hospital. Six preterm newborns died last month as a result.

Pine Crest called Almasri’s posts “hateful and incendiary,” and further justified her son’s expulsion by saying they’ve expelled students for their parents’ conduct before. The school also said it already warned Almasri several times to take down her “inflammatory” posts.

On Thursday, the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) of Florida announced that it’s requesting the Department of Education investigate Abughamda’s expulsion. At a press conference with his mother, Abughamda, a 10th grader, said he’s “disappointed and sad” that he’s been expelled about halfway through the school year. “If they said I did something, but it wasn’t bad, even that didn’t happen because I didn’t do anything at all,” he said. Almasri said she’s “sad for my child who was deprived of finishing his high school career,” and denied the school’s claims that she was trying to promote violence: “None of my posts were inciting violence, they were merely shedding light on what was happening.”

CAIR Florida and the national CAIR organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Jezebel on Abughamda’s expulsion or other recent controversies involving schools punishing pro-Palestine speech. But Imam Abdullah Jaber, Executive Director of CAIR Florida, expressed concern with the precedent that Abughamda’s expulsion sets at the press conference. “Our main concern is suppressing the right of Americans to express what they feel is decent human rights, that’s the issue here,” he said.

This comes as numerous college students have faced punishment from their universities ranging from suspension to expulsion for statements and actions protesting Israel or supporting Palestinians. Student groups including Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace have also been penalized for taking actions in support of Palestinians. Last month, a student in Orange County, California, was suspended for saying “free Palestine.” And around Thanksgiving, three Palestinian-American university students were shot, one paralyzed from the waist down, while wearing keffiyehs and speaking Arabic.

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