Washington, D.C. - In case you missed it, today, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, a senior member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, questioned New York City Department of Education Chancellor David Banks on his failure to adequately respond to instances of antisemitism in New York City schools. 

Stefanik also questioned Chancellor Banks on failing to fire the principal of Hillcrest High School after a teacher was attacked for being Jewish and openly supporting Israel.

Watch her line of questioning here.

Read a full transcript of her line of questioning below:

Congresswoman Stefanik: Mr. Banks, there’s been many questions on Hillcrest. And I just want to make sure it’s very clear for the record: The principal of Hillcrest High School is still employed by the Department of Education, correct?    

Chancellor Banks: Correct.

Congresswoman Stefanik: And what is his role?

Chancellor Banks: He’s serving in a role working on one of the teams under one of our deputy chancellors.  

Congresswoman Stefanik: I am told that he’s Director of Teacher Development and Evaluation. Is that accurate?  

Chancellor Banks: I don’t know his official title, right now. I’d have to double check that. 

Congresswoman Stefanik: 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. And these rules and policies matter whether it’s teachers, administrators, or students violating the rules. I want to switch to Origins High School. In October, 40 to 50 students marched through Origins High School chanting ‘Death to Israel’ and ‘Kill the Jews.’ In addition, an independent investigation found that a teacher, who teaches global history, was told by a student, “I wish you were killed.” Another student called her “a dirty Jew,” and the student said he wished Hitler could have hit more Jews including her. What disciplinary actions have been taken against those students who chanted ‘Death to Israel’ at Origins High School and against the student who harassed, with antisemitic slurs, that teacher?

Chancellor Banks: Two things: First of all, when we’ve done our investigation we have 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. 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.    

Congresswoman Stefanik: So, what are the enforcement actions?

Chancellor Banks: I’m trying to tell you. We have, in fact, suspended a number of students at that school, but currently, this case now is under litigation. And 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. 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.  

Congresswoman Stefanik: You understand our concern though as policy makers. When we have witnesses testify whether it’s Columbia University, Penn, Harvard, or New York City Chancellor, 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.

Chancellor Banks: We’ve held a lot of people accountable. You weren’t here when I gave my opening statement.  

Congresswoman Stefanik: But you didn’t. You said you fired the principal, and it turns out the former principal of Hillcrest–

Chancellor Banks: I never said I fired the principal. 

Congresswoman Stefanik: You did. You can check the testimony. Ms. McClain asked. You said ‘yes.’

Chancellor Banks: Fired the principal of who?

Congresswoman Stefanik: Hillcrest. 

Chancellor Banks: I never said I fired the principal of Hillcrest. You check the record. I never said that.

Congresswoman Stefanik: I will check the record. I will check the record.

Chancellor Banks: I said that we removed the principal. I never said I fired the principal.

Congresswoman Stefanik: Mr. Banks. She said, ‘has he been fired?’ You said ‘yes.’ And then we moved on.

Chancellor Banks: I did not say that. 

Congresswoman Stefanik: You did. You said he was removed. 

Chancellor Banks: Well, I would beg to differ on that. 

Congresswoman Stefanik: We now know though that he is still employed by the Department of Education. 

Chancellor Banks: He is no longer at the school. 

Congresswoman Stefanik: But he is employed by the Department of Education.

Chancellor Banks: He has been removed from his position as the principal of the school. That’s not the same thing as terminated. 

Congresswoman Stefanik: And now he is employed at the Department of Education. You testified to that. And you also said, I believe, we’ve been told that he’s Director of Teacher Development and Evaluation, and you’re not sure if that’s the case. Our expectation is that we’ll get an answer by the end of today whether that’s the case or not. 

Chancellor Banks: You will, absolutely. 

Congresswoman Stefanik: My next question is: There have been multiple teacher-led, anti-Israel walkouts during school time. What are the consequences for those teacher walkouts? And do those violate policy of DOE? 

Chancellor Banks: I’m not sure what teacher walkouts. We’ve had a number of walkouts of students out of school, including several of our high schools. Which are also very troubling for me.   

Congresswoman Stefanik: So what disciplinary action is taken in that case? 

Chancellor Banks: Right, the challenge that we have in that case is we do not have any rules within our code of conduct that would prevent a child from actually walking out of the school. When they walk out of the school, they are marked absent. They’re essentially cutting from school. There are consequences for cutting school. We notify parents.    

Congresswoman Stefanik: It’s your testimony here today that there’s no teacher involvement in those walkouts? Because independent media reports say that there is teacher involvement in those walkouts. 

Chancellor Banks: I don’t have any evidence of that. We have evidence of one where the principal assigned a teacher to go with a student to a protest. Completely inappropriate. That principle was disciplined. The teacher was disciplined in that particular case.  

Congresswoman Stefanik: What was the form of the discipline?

Chancellor Banks: I’m not at liberty to tell you the very specific. They were not fired, but we have a wide range of discipline that takes place in those cases. And we did take action.

Congresswoman Stefanik: My last question is: You had a teacher at Gotham Tech High School in Queens, and you’ve spoken out publicly against this, he posted images of a Hamas paraglider to his social media, repeatedly refers to ‘so-called Israel.’ Again, 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?  

Chancellor Banks: Again, action was taken. First of all, I want just to say I think what that employee did was absolutely disgusting, absolutely disgusting.

Congresswoman Stefanik: But what action? 

Chancellor Banks: And we took action. 

Congresswoman Stefanik: What was the action? 

Chancellor Banks: I cannot give you specifics on the action that was taken.

Congresswoman Stefanik: Yes you can. You are in front of Congress. What is the action? 

Chancellor Banks: I cannot give you, on this specific employee, we did in fact take action.

Congresswoman Stefanik: You can give us an answer. You’re choosing not to. That’s unacceptable.