A Corona del Mar Middle and High School student was suspended this week, allegedly for saying remarks deemed to be threatening, such as “Free Palestine,” to a classmate, according to social media posts circulating Friday.
Newport-Mesa Unified Assistant Superintendent Kerrie Torres confirmed the student was suspended for three days from classroom instruction starting on Nov. 13.
Torres and other district employees reached Friday evening said they could not go into further details about what caused the suspension.
But a social media post that purports to be from the student’s aunt included a photo of a letter signed by Principal Jacob Haley that said: “(The student) said threatening remarks to a young lady in class. He said ‘Free Palestine.’” Those social media posts also detailed previous tensions that occurred between the student and others at school.
Corona del Mar High was the site of vandalism last month after swastikas were drawn on a locker.
Newport-Mesa Unified supports students’ free speech, but it “will not tolerate hateful speech in our schools, especially not hate speech that incites others to engage in negative behavior,” said Annette Franco, a district spokesperson, in an emailed statement Friday evening.
“We have an obligation to maintain a safe learning environment while respecting students’ rights to speak on issues,” the statement said. “We take our obligations to students seriously, and because of this, there is an expectation for students to engage in respectful dialogue for change, not hateful speech that is directed toward a specific student population.”
The suspended student’s family could not be reached for comment Friday evening.
In the case of the reported vandalism last month, school officials said they alerted police who were investigating the incident. There was no indication from either district employees or the social media posts Friday that the suspended student was involved in the vandalism.
Franco said last month that the vandalism and an increase in digital hate speech prompted the school to form an interfaith council made up of students, parents, community members and local religious leaders to discuss the incident and encourage positive dialogue around culturally sensitive issues going forward.
Corona del Mar is a public middle and high school in Newport Beach.