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Desert Mountain parent says his kids were bullied after Horne's press conference

A parent of two students at Desert Mountain High School says his children were bullied after Tom Horne, the state superintendent of public instruction, accused two student clubs of spreading antisemitic materials on campus.

Student-led chapters of UNICEF and Amnesty International met on Thursday, Nov. 2, to discuss the Israel-Palestinian conflict. They made a presentation that supported Palestinians in Gaza and accused Israel of human rights violations.

Horne  held a press conference on Wednesday, Nov. 8, where he called materials distributed at the meeting “antisemitic and anti-American” and advised schools to keep the organizations off their campuses.

David Chami is a board member for the Arizona chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-AZ). He is also the parent of two students who are in the UNICEF and Amnesty International clubs.

“My sons and other students who are part of these clubs have now faced backlash, being called Nazis, being associated with Hitler, despite what was clearly not an antisemitic presentation," Chami said during a press conference at the state Capitol.

Chami said Horne misrepresented what was shared by students at the club meeting and put his children at risk.

"[Horne] was more worried about protecting the image of the state of Israel and the Israeli Defense Forces than he was in protecting the students in his state," Chami said. 

Rep. Athena Salman, one of the few Palestinian Americans who serves in any state Legislature, said Horne’s actions are inappropriate considering his position.

“When we have these positions of power as elected officials, they come with an immense amount of responsibility, especially when you are the top elected person who is supposed to be advocating for all students,” Salman said. “What we see as a result of his press conference is Islamophobia and anti-Arab discrimination.” 

Salman was one of 17 legislative Democrats who signed a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Senior field correspondent Bridget Dowd has a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.