Why The New York Times’ Smear Campaign Against Private Religious Schools Hurts Their Credibility

The New York Times is at it again. Almost three years after their mishandling of Senator Tom Cotton’s (R-AR) “send in the troops” essay grabbed national headlines, another equally egregious campaign is getting far less attention. This time, as part of their coordinated attack against private, faith-based education, the Gray Lady is blaming Hasidic Jewish schools for corporal punishment.

Here’s the backstory: last week, a coalition of New York State Assembly members and state senators introduced several bills making corporal punishment illegal in schools statewide. Banned in public schools since 1985, the proposed legislation would extend to private institutions.

So far, so good. Corporal punishment has no place in any school, public or private. Yet the practice remains legal in 19 states and is running rampant across the Empire State. According to the Albany Times Union, New York’s Education Department has documented nearly 18,000 complaints of corporal punishment in public and charter schools across New York over the last half decade. More than 1,600 of those complaints have been substantiated.

These new bills address a real and pressing need and deserve wide and bipartisan support.

But of the 17,819 total cases reported across the state, more than 93% (16,671) took place in the New York City Public School system. The remaining 7% of complaints (1,148) came from other public school districts across the state.

In their reporting on the new proposals, The New York Times framed lawmakers’ action as a “response to its [The New York Times’] reporting of the use of slaps and kicks to keep order in some Hasidic Jewish schools,” known as yeshivas.

With almost all the reported instances of corporal punishment happening in public schools, why would the nation’s newspaper of record lay the blame squarely on yeshivas? It not only provides an opportunity to brag about their own reporting, but it also fits neatly into their narrative.

Less than six months ago, these same Times reporters took the wood to yeshivas. In a 7,000-word expose, they accused the schools of failing to “provide an adequate education” and added they, “regularly use corporal punishment.”

The same article went on to state that, “over the past five years, the New York City Police Department has investigated more than a dozen claims of child abuse at the schools, records show. It is not clear whether anyone was charged in the incidents.”

There are 113,000 students enrolled in Yeshivas in New York City compared to one million in its public school system, a number 10 times higher. If the rate of corporal punishment were equally pervasive, it is reasonable to assume that 1/10 of the total complaints, i.e., a number like 1,600, to have occurred at yeshivas – not “more than a dozen,” as the Times reported.

They did not stop there. Since September 2022, they have published at least 17 articles depicting yeshivas in a negative light, and published three on the anniversary of September 11.

In the aftermath of last week’s reporting, the authors of the new legislation banning corporal punishment rebuked the Times’ framing. One of the sponsors, Democratic state Senator Julia Salazar, tweeted at the Times reporter: “To be clear: We introduced this bill because the law should *explicitly* ban corporal punishment in all schools. The use of physical or violent methods to ostensibly discipline students has happened in many schools. I haven’t seen any evidence of it being a pattern in yeshivas.” Another of the co-sponsors, Democratic Senator Andrew Gounardes, echoed these remarks.

The distaste from The New York Times toward Hasidic schools is well-documented on its editorial page. The opinion section of the newspaper is the appropriate place for this type of advocacy. The news side should present facts.

When opinion blatantly influences news, the newspaper’s reputation suffers. Public data shows perception of the news media at record lows. According to numbers released last month by Gallup and the Knight Foundation, half of Americans believe most national news organizations intend to mislead, misinform, or persuade the public

Blaming yeshivas for corporal punishment certainly doesn’t help repair the few remaining shreds of the Gray Lady’s mantle of credibility. Let’s hope they reverse course or else readers will have no choice but to completely tune them out.


Awi Federgruen is the Charles E. Exley Professor of Management at Columbia Business School.

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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