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As NYC Removes Two Parents from Ed. Councils, Free Speech Violations Charged

Following anti-discrimination and harassment investigations, Chancellor removes leaders on prominent Brooklyn, Manhattan school advisory boards.

New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks (Getty Images)

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In the first move of its kind, the nation’s largest school district removed two prominent elected parent leaders from community education councils after controversial rhetoric against transgender students and student advocacy for Palestine.

Elected to serve two-year terms on the city’s closest equivalent to school boards, parents Maud Maron and Tajh Sutton were removed Friday from lower Manhattan’s District 2 council and northern Brooklyn’s District 14, respectively. 

Maron appeared in court June 18, seeking an injunction and reinstatement, alleging the Chancellor’s decision was a violation of free speech. The Education Council Consortium, a parent advocacy organization, has demanded Sutton’s reinstatement and criticized the Chancellor for equivalating Maron and Sutton. 

“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,” Schools Chancellor David Banks said in the Friday press release announcing the removals. 

In closing their statement denouncing Sutton’s removal, the Education Council Consortium said, “it is indeed a ‘sad day’ when New York City Public Schools uncovers a new way to further erode any confidence in this administration.”

A December investigation by The 74 previously revealed Maron said in a private chat that, “there is no such thing as trans kids.” Banks categorized her remarks as “despicable” and promised to take action. By March, a petition to remove her from Stuyvesant High School’s school leadership team for “bigotry” amassed more than 700 signatures. In April, the DOE ordered her to cease “derogatory” conduct. 

For months, parents and city leaders condemned Maron for leading a push to re-examine the city’s guidelines for trans students’ participation in sports, and for calling an anonymous student author a “coward,” accusing them of “Jew hatred,” for an op-ed accusing Israel of genocide. 

Across the East River, Sutton was subject to investigation for supporting a student walkout for a ceasefire in Gaza, including posting a digital toolkit and protest chants. In the letter listing his reasons for removing her, Banks said the materials shared by Sutton were “perceived by many community members as anti-Israel and antisemitic.”  

The New York Times reported Sutton, then the president and only Black member of District 14 council, had support from many families in her district who believe she was “unfairly targeted” for her advocacy for Palestine and that the DOE did little to safeguard her council against death threats. Sutton said she was also mailed an envelope of human feces. 

In a recent op-ed in the New York Post, Maron defended her actions and revealed Banks’s “official” reasoning for her removal pointed to the comments made against the anonymous student author. “But the real reason the Chancellor wants to remove me is because the Democratic establishment in New York City is furious because I know the difference between male and female and am willing to say so in polite company.” she wrote. 

In the letter issuing Sutton’s removal, Banks alleged Sutton violated open meetings laws for moving council meetings online, a decision she maintains was made over safety concerns after violent threats and multiple police reports, for which the DOE offered to provide additional NYPD officers at in-person meetings. 

Sutton told The 74 she was never questioned by the DOE’s equity council for the alleged OML violations, only regarding her advocacy. Open meeting law regulations state that videoconferencing or hybrid meetings may be permitted under “extraordinary circumstances,” and do not state that violations may result in removal. 

“If we were so out of compliance, why did you wait until June to remove me?” Sutton said. “Because you were waiting for Maron’s situation to get so hot that you could remove us together, so you could pretend that what I did is equal to what she did.”  

David Bloomfield, an education law professor with Brooklyn College and the City University of New York Graduate Center, believes it was no accident Maron and Sutton were removed simultaneously, and questioned the precedent set for free speech. 

“He seems to be treating them as similar situations and trying to balance the scales by removing a left wing member and a right wing member,” said Bloomfield.

While he did not question Banks’s legal right to remove Maron and Sutton, Bloomfield charged the precedent set is, “precisely what the First Amendment is supposed to protect against, which is the chilling of speech and particularly of political speech.” 

Maron is one of three plaintiffs suing Sutton, Banks and District 14’s council for violating the First Amendment and suppressing parent voices. She has recently launched a consultancy group called ThirdRail, which promises to “help neutralize counterproductive DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] initiatives” and build “flourishing workplaces where ideas – not ideologies – inspire strategy.” 

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