Amnesty International USA is deeply concerned about increased threats, silencing, and deactivation of school and university groups in the wake of the escalating conflict in Gaza and Israel, and calls on administrations and school districts to respect and support students’ rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
Amnesty International USA school chapters, along with college chapters of Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine, have been threatened, silenced, and in some cases shut down or pushed off campus for their speech and activism in support of Palestinian rights, criticism of the actions by the Israeli military, or calling for a ceasefire in the current conflict. These actions come on the heels of a weeks-long campaign of demonization and mischaracterization of such groups by politicians, officials, school administrators, and media pundits. In response, some schools have threatened to or have already taken punitive actions towards such school groups. Rather than bending to this rhetoric, schools and universities should ensure that all students can safely express their views and beliefs and ensure protection of their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
“Amnesty student chapters and other school-based groups are facing increased pressure from their school administrations to not speak out on human rights or on topics that are viewed as ‘controversial,’” said Bethany Criss, Chief Movement Building and Member Engagement Officer at Amnesty International USA. “Some students have received threats to their physical safety or experienced being doxxed, and some are losing access to school resources due to raising awareness on this human rights crisis. Some school districts are considering disbanding Amnesty International or other student clubs altogether. Silencing and misrepresenting students in this way must stop.”
Amnesty International is a global movement of millions of people demanding respect for the human rights of all people – no matter who they are or where they are. In hundreds of communities across the United States, Amnesty International chapters come together to discuss human rights issues and work to protect human rights through Amnesty’s campaigns and actions. Young people are driving human rights work on their campuses and in their communities, while learning about global and domestic human rights issues.
“Amnesty International is in solidarity with all who want to advance human rights around the world, and we are firmly against any kind of intimidation or harm faced by students working on human rights issues,” said Criss. “Schools and institutions of higher learning have a crucial role in helping students understand their human rights. Any steps taken to silence, harass, threaten, or otherwise intimidate those who gather peacefully and speak out is a violation of their rights.”