A Jewish-Israeli junior at a high school in New Jersey became the center of an uproar on Twitter yesterday after she live-tweeted a trip to the principal’s office. According to her own secret recordings, it all started because of the sixteen-year-old’s anti-Zionist tweets.
While Benny Koval had previously tweeted about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict quite a bit (in one tweet she refers to Israel as “a terrorist force” in relation to the Gaza bombing of 2014), this was likely the tweet that sparked the trouble with her school:
im sooooo glad that pro-Israel girl from my school unfollowed me! I'm so FREE now like..... FUCK ISRAEL FUCK ISRAEL FUCK ISRAEL FUCK ISRAEL— benny (@bendykoval) December 27, 2015
And according to her, the school has taken action on politically charged tweets in the past.
But actually I can get in a LOT of trouble with my school for my anti-Israel sentiments on here A girl I know got in trouble for a BLM post— benny (@bendykoval) December 27, 2015
[Benny] said they also reprimanded her for a second tweet in which she told a friend she would name the student in a private message.
Ms. Koval said on Wednesday she believed neither statement constituted an act of bullying.
“Her name was never mentioned,” she wrote in a message on Twitter. “I never degraded her. They use ‘bullying’ as a guise to cover their pro-Israel, pro-censorship agenda.”
Been recorded her conversation with an administrator identified as Frank Guadagnino, which she posted on Twitter later that day:
Guadagnino: Do you realize that what you put out electronically can also get you in trouble in school or... put you in some kind of problems?
Benny: Well, I haven’t put anything problematic out there—maybe controversial.
Guadagnino: Ok, well. That’s your interpretation. There’s a state law that might interpret it differently.
In the next clip, Guadagnino warns her not to bother the kids who reported her for the original tweet:
Guadagnino: I’m just saying, electronically, you can get yourself in trouble. So... I would back off and make sure you don’t bother those kids. And don’t get involved in a conversation of who, what, where, when—you can sit there with your smug attitude right now, but if it’s gotta go into a bullying case because you think it shouldn’t be, but the state says it is, you’re going to lose.
Guadagnino: [Quoting a tweet] ‘But I’m so glad that pro-Israel girl from my school unfollowed me.’
Benny: Is that really offensive? That I was glad that she unfollowed me?
Benny: I didn’t think so.
Guadagnino: No, I know. But then you said, ‘I’m DMing you their names right now”... So you are talking about her to somebody else.
Later, Benny was called back to the office and asked to make a written statement. She requested to have an attorney present, but was denied.
Guadagnino: Uh... there’s no need for an attorney. I’m just investigating something that’s going on in school.
Benny: The fact that you’re “investigating” me means there’s need for an attorney.
Guadagnino: This is not a court of law.
Benny: I don’t want to make a statement.
Guadagnino: So am I just supposed to take her statement as gold? And follow through and give this up—
Benny: I believe I have the right to an attorney.
Guadagnino: You don’t. This is not a court of law.
It wasn’t just her school’s administrators that were giving her trouble, though. Her classmates, too, were apparently aware of what was going on—and not at all happy about it.
Just couldn't make it through the school day. Too much aggression amongst classmates here. Going home now. I'm safe.— benny (@bendykoval) January 7, 2016
A statement from the school is supposed to be released at some point today. You can read the whole thread (and listen to some audio) from Benny’s ordeal below.
Threatened to file a bullying case against me. It's against state law to express unpopular political views on the Internet, now.— benny (@bendykoval) January 6, 2016
I didn't start this. The girl saw my posts on the Gaza bombings, and began talking about me in school. You're my witnesses.— benny (@bendykoval) January 6, 2016
I recorded the interaction, because my ass KNEW my rights were about to be violated. Posting clips now.— benny (@bendykoval) January 6, 2016
Ends with "the state law may interpret it differently", if you couldn't hear it. pic.twitter.com/fJsl5ygmsy— benny (@bendykoval) January 6, 2016
Apparently a "smug attitude" is trying not to burst into tears. Do you know how bad a HIB report looks? pic.twitter.com/bqNLUmSc6b— benny (@bendykoval) January 6, 2016
Here are some of the allegations. Remember, I posted my views independently, she talked about it to others first. pic.twitter.com/quP0vHAAbf— benny (@bendykoval) January 6, 2016
I'm a minor, I'm a minor, and if anything I'm the one being bullied by that girl here. But I'm not a whiny pissbaby, so I wouldn't report it— benny (@bendykoval) January 6, 2016
Sorry. Gym teacher confiscated my phone. This has never happened before. It was my free day: everyone uses their phone on free days.— benny (@bendykoval) January 6, 2016
So lucky we were practicing meditation and the lights were off. I was sobbing at the back of the gym. What is America coming to?— benny (@bendykoval) January 6, 2016
Guys. GUYS. I'm being called down to the office again. I plan to record again. It's okay. It's okay. I don't know what will happen to me— benny (@bendykoval) January 6, 2016
I was denied my right to an attorney. I was forced to make a writer statement, but I begged them to revoke it. pic.twitter.com/izgyLANgMJ— benny (@bendykoval) January 6, 2016
Three people of authority surrounded me. I felt forced and extremely uncomfortable. I told them this and they later released me.— benny (@bendykoval) January 6, 2016
Here he intimidates me into making a statement without legal presence. pic.twitter.com/P9q6zzRPcV— benny (@bendykoval) January 6, 2016
TEACHER JUST ASKED ME WHAT I WAS CALLED DOWN FOR. They're positioned. She is never this invasive. I replied, "a disagreement".— benny (@bendykoval) January 6, 2016
I shouldn't feel unsafe at my own school for expressing a political belief.— benny (@bendykoval) January 7, 2016