In rare move, NYC schools Chancellor Banks removes two parent leaders following controversies

A man in a dark suit sits with his hands in his lap.
New York City schools Chancellor David Banks removed two elected parent leaders involved in controversies over transgender students and the Israel-Hamas war from their positions Friday. (Alex Zimmerman / Chalkbeat)

New York City schools Chancellor David Banks on Friday removed two parent leaders who have been entangled in high-profile public controversies over transgender students and the Israel-Hamas war from their roles on elected Community Education Councils.

Parent leaders Tajh Sutton, the president of the CEC in Brooklyn’s District 14, and Maud Maron, a member of the CEC in Manhattan’s District 2, were removed from their posts for allegedly violating open meetings laws and city regulations governing the conduct of parent leaders, an Education Department spokesperson confirmed.

The removal of the parent leaders is the culmination of a year of escalating tensions in the city’s elected parent leadership bodies, which are largely advisory. Disputes have surged this year among parent leaders over the Israel-Hamas war and policies governing sports for transgender students, leading to a spike in complaints against council members.

The chancellor has the authority under state law to remove CEC members, but it’s unclear if a chancellor has exercised that power before. A spokesperson couldn’t immediately confirm if CEC members have been removed in the past.

“It is a sad day when New York City Public Schools is compelled to take the actions I have ordered today, but the violations committed by these two individuals have made them unfit to serve in these roles,” Banks said in the statement.

Some critics have been calling on Banks for months to remove Maron from the council after she sent texts in a private group chat denying the existence of transgender kids and calling an anonymous student at Stuyvesant High School, where Maron is a parent, a “coward” and accusing them of “Jew hatred” in response to an opinion piece the student authored in the school newspaper.

Maron, who ran unsuccessful campaigns for the city council and U.S. House of Representatives in recent years, was also a sponsor of a resolution passed by CEC 2 in March calling on the Education Department to reconsider its guidelines allowing transgender students to join sports teams that align with their gender identities. The resolution has drawn national media attention and sharp condemnations from Banks.

An April letter from the Education Department to Maron preceding her removal ordered her to cease “derogatory or offensive comments” toward students and stop “verbal abuse and unnecessary aggressive speech,” according to The 74.

Maron previously told The 74 that the Education Department hadn’t made the specific allegations against her clear and called the process “Kafkaesque” and an “embarrassment.”

Maron didn’t respond to a request for comment Friday, but told Chalkbeat in March that she stood by her comments in the group chat, saying “defending the rights of girls and women is not anti-trans.”

Maron is a plaintiff in a lawsuit against Sutton, the other parent leader removed Friday, and the city Education Department alleging that they’re misusing the grievance process and suppressing the voices of some parent leaders.

Second removal relates to pro-Palestinian advocacy

Sutton, the president of the CEC in Williamsburg and Greenpoint’s District 14, has been embroiled in a controversy surrounding her pro-Palestinian advocacy, and subsequent decision to shift council meetings online over safety concerns stemming from threats she said she received over her views. The threats included an envelope of feces sent in the mail, she said.

In a copy of the removal letter obtained by Chalkbeat, Banks accused Sutton of making comments and distributing protest materials that have “justifiably been perceived by many community members as anti-Israel and antisemitic.” Sutton did not create the materials, but helped distribute them in advance of a walkout calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip in November.

He specifically cites Sutton distributing a pro-Palestinian protest toolkit that included protest chants such as “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “Say it loud, say it clear; We don’t want Zionists here,” claiming those phrases violate the Education Department’s anti-discrimination policies.

Banks also accuses Sutton of improperly seeking to influence hiring decisions by protesting the dismissal of a paraprofessional allegedly fired from his school over his conduct at pro-Palestinian protests and social media posts.

Finally, the letter charged Sutton with violating open meetings laws by shifting to the virtual CEC meetings. Banks argued that the Education Department offered several supports to help the CEC address safety concerns and resume in-person meetings as required under state law.

Reached by phone Friday, Sutton strongly disputed the characterizations in the letter.

She said she was targeted because “we are a deeply effective and highly autonomous council” and because she “will not be complicit in the violence of the Department of Education.”

Her involvement in the aftermath of the termination of the paraprofessional was the kind of advocacy she said she’s done numerous times during her years as CEC president when she has concerns about a school decision, she said.

She contended that the Education Department has not done enough to address the threats and make the council feel safe enough to resume in-person meetings, aside from offering NYPD presence.

She further argued that many councils are out of compliance with various aspects of the rules, including posting meeting minutes and enlisting student members, but that the Education Department’s enforcement has been selective.

Sutton said she stands by her vocal pro-Palestinian stance and disputed the accusation that it was antisemitic, noting that multiple Jewish community members have supported her statements on the Israel-Hamas war.

Sutton said she plans to continue her advocacy. One member of the Panel for Educational Policy, an Education Department oversight body, said CEC members removed from their positions have the right to appeal the decision to the PEP.

Michael Elsen-Rooney is a reporter for Chalkbeat New York, covering NYC public schools. Contact Michael at melsen-rooney@chalkbeat.org.


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