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The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

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The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

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Arab Student Union attempt to show documentary halted

Editor’s Note: To read more about the current climate surrounding the Israel-Hamas War at Jackson-Reed, go here to read an article from our November edition.

Jackson-Reed administration halted an open showing of the film “The Occupation of the American Mind” sponsored by the Arab Student Union (ASU) last month. According to Principal Brown, the event was canceled because the film was not included in the DCPS resource list for classroom discussion on the conflict in the Middle East.

“DCPS provided educators with a list of resources and instructional support to use when they seek to engage students around the conflict and war in the Middle East,” Brown said. “This film is not included on the DCPS resource list.”

In a bulletin issued to the school community on December 17, Principal Brown added that the film showing was “unsanctioned.”

ASU wanted to show the movie to create space for discussion. “We thought it would spark a good conversation with students who were interested in the film, about how the media we consume and how certain narratives can shape our views,” senior and ASU member Innea Kersey said.

According to science teacher and ASU staff sponsor Phillip Bechara, “The Occupation of the American Mind” is “mostly a criticism of the US media and government’s response to the conflict.”

Senior and ASU student leader Hala Elamine added that “it specifically talks about the conflict in 2014 [between Israel and Palestine], which is very similar to what we are seeing today.”

In addition to the film’s message, ASU chose the film for its length of 40 minutes. The relatively-short running time would allow the club to hold two consecutive lunch sessions with 20 minutes of viewing followed by a 20-minute discussion.

The film presents an argument that the Israeli government has used media and various forms of propaganda to misguide Americans and gain global support. However, critics of the film believe it presents a one-sided view of conflict.

As WTOP reported in 2019 after an attempt to show the documentary at a church in Takoma Park, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington believes that the film “does not present an accurate picture of the overall Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The ASU put up posters to advertise the lunchtime viewings on Wednesday, December 6. That night, during the Engineering Expo and open house for incoming 9th-graders, a parent removed a poster from the wall to show a Jackson-Reed staff member and express their concern over the ASU showing the film.

This conversation was then conveyed to Bechara, and a few days later, Bechara was informed that the screening of the movie had been canceled. Brown explained that the posters were taken down because the club had not followed the formal process of flier and poster approval.

After canceling the screening, members of the administration, including Principal Brown and Resident Principal and Assistant Principal Tomeka McKenzie, met with the ASU to discuss the administration’s decision and receive input from members of the ASU. Principal Brown stated that showing another documentary was always an option, so long as it was approved by DCPS. 

“I support student clubs showing films and ask that the sponsors bring them to my attention in advance of a screening to ensure the material promotes a safe and inclusive environment for our students and staff,” Brown said.

Since the cancellation of the showing, the ASU took to Instagram to advocate for their cause, linking a petition and creating an email template for students and parents to send to administration to encourage them to allow the film screening. 

This article is still developing, and follow-ups will be posted as they become available.

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About the Contributors
Simon Holland, Editor-in-Chief
Simon is one of two Editors-in-Chief, and if you start talking to him about RuPaul’s Drag Race, you’ll never escape that conversation. During the day, Simon can be found holed up in a corner of the library cranking through all his editing in one sitting, and after school, there’s a 99.9% chance he’s in the Black Box Theater, wishing he could see the sun.  
  • 2022-23: Style Editor
  • 2023-24: Editor-in-Chief
Isadora Groves, News Editor
  • 2021-23: Junior Editor
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Rohini Kieffer, Features Editor
  • 2021-22: Junior Editor
  • 2022-23: Section Copy Editor
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