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Pa. school board member resigns after calling Israeli army ‘terrorist organization’: ‘Words do matter’

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A Pennsylvania school board member has resigned after calling Israel’s army a “terrorist organization” on social media — but she will retain her job as an assistant superintendent in the Philadelphia school system.

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Dr. Jamina Clay, who was elected in 2021 to the Colonial Board of School Directors, had just been re-elected to the panel when she caused a local uproar over her offensive post and agreed to step down.

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“As you are all aware of — I recently made a post on my Facebook page where I intended to draw attention to the conflict in the Middle East,” Clay wrote in a since-deleted groveling missive on Facebook — the same platform she used to disparage the Israel Defense Forces — on Thursday, according to Fox News.

“Upon reflection and after having conversations with my loved ones and friends, I understand that my choice of words may have caused harm to many, and the impact did not match my intent. This post has been removed,” said Clay, an assistant superintendent for the School District of Philadelphia, in which she oversees 10 schools.

“Because of the pain that my post has caused, I have resigned from my seat on the Colonial School Board, effective immediately,” she said.

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Dr. Jamina Clay, who was elected in 2021 to the Colonial Board of School Directors, announced her resignation from the panel in a since-deleted post on Facebook.
Facebook/Mina Clay

“I understand that the district needs to heal from the painful words that I chose, and it is best to do that in my absence. The board is prepared to move forward, and I hope that with me no longer occupying the seat, the community is able to do so, as well.”

Clay then noted she will continue to serve in her schools job.

“Again, I apologize for the post that I made and I hope to learn from this situation,” she said. “I will continue to pray for peace in the Middle East.”

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Clay wrote in her apology that she understands “my choice of words may have caused harm to many, and the impact did not match my intent.”
FOX News

The apology came just one day after Clay posted on Facebook, “The terrorist organization known to many as the IDF is currently targeting a hospital.

“The world watches while the Palestinian people are eliminated.”

The post quickly drew backlash from the local Jewish community, many of whom voiced their concerns at a school board meeting Thursday night — just hours after Clay submitted her resignation.

Andrew  Goretsky, a local parent who serves as regional director of the Anti-Defamation League Philadelphia, said he found Clay’s post not only offensive but “as an educator, to be negligent.”

Spencer Yablon said the “despicable views” in Clay’s post “bring to the surface what Jews have always felt — that antisemitism is all around us,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Rabbi Glenn Ettman added, “The main thing that sticks out as harmful, not just hurtful, but harmful, was calling the Israeli Defense Forces a terrorist organization.

“Words do matter,” he told NBC Philadelphia. “Words have influence, and certainly words that come from people who are elected officials hold even more weight because of the position in which they hold.”

Clay was absent from the Colonial School Board meeting Thursday night, just hours after she sent in her resignation.
FOX News

In a statement, Beth Patruno, president of the school district, said, “We acknowledge that members of our community are hurting as a result of Dr. Clay’s comments. 

“This is not acceptable in our school district, where we pride ourselves on creating a culture of belonging,” she told CBS News.

The Colonial School District released a statement saying it received Clay’s resignation letter, noting that her “post was offensive to many and resulted in numerous emails calling for her resignation or censure, as well as a call for many to attend tonight’s School Board meeting to voice their concern.

“Dr. Clay submitted her resignation this morning stating that she did not want to distract from the work of the School Board or the district,” the statement said, according to Fox News.

“Following the receipt of her resignation letter, we sent a message to the community to notify them of this development and to reiterate our commitment to creating a safe, inclusive environment for students, faculty and staff.

Many people in the local Jewish community voiced their concerns at the school board meeting Thursday night.
FOX News

“Colonial School District prides itself on cultivating a sense of belonging,” it continued. “All our schools work hard each year to maintain their designations as No Place for Hate Schools as part of our partnership with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and take part in many other initiatives and programs meant to encourage equity, inclusion and belonging.

“We condemn all forms of hatred and violence and remind all that we have counseling services available for anyone who may be struggling.”

Superintendent Michael Christian said Clay’s post was “offensive to many and, as a school board member, this is unacceptable in a district that prides itself on cultivating a sense of belonging.”

Philadelphia School District spokeswoman Monique Braxton said the district’s free-speech policy — which says, “Employees are protected by the First Amendment when speaking on a matter of public concern that is not part of their job duties” — applies to Clay’s post.

Still, “the views and opinions expressed in Dr. Clay’s Facebook post do not reflect the position, opinion or views of the School District of Philadelphia,” Braxton added.

The rep noted that the district’s policy on employee social media use says disciplinary action can be taken when a staffer’s social media use “damages the reputation of the School District of Philadelphia as an educational institution” or “has a negative impact on a staff member’s ability to effectively perform his/her duties.”

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