Despite some initial apprehension, the Northern York School Board voted unanimously to allow a Palestinian exchange student to attend classes there this coming school year.

The board took the action Thursday night after a number of people, most voicing support for 15-year-old Rami Amjad Yahya, addressed the board.

"I think there is a great opportunity for this student from Palestine to share his experience here," said Fred Smeltzer of Spring Grove.

However, district resident Dave Christiansen said not enough is known about Rami.

"I just don't think there's enough information right now to allow this student in this year," he said.

Resident Harrison Sanders said if the district wants to scrutinize something that could be "un-American," officials should look into the "tens of pickup trucks that roll into Northern's parking lots every morning with Confederate flags on the back."

"Last I checked, secession is an act of treason," he said.

Reports: Rami, who submitted an application to study in America through Youth For Understanding USA, will join the 11th-grade class when school starts later this year.

Two board members raised concerns about Rami in June and during a committee meeting on Tuesday. However, one said the news reports from the meeting were inaccurate and blown out of proportion.


"Unfortunately, this turned into much ado about nothing," said Greg Hlatky, board vice president.

Board president Harry Lake said he received a call Thursday from a CNN representative asking about the issue.

Board member Michael Brandt said after the meeting that he raised concerns that Rami could bring anti-American, anti-Israeli or anti-Muslim sentiment to the district.

However, the long-term board member, who has both Jewish and Muslim relatives, said he had a change of heart after having some questions about Rami answered by administrators.

"I didn't know anything about him," Brandt said. "I don't know what's in anyone's heart."

Brandt said he made the anti-American comment about the Middle East in general.

Application: Hlatky said his concerns rested on the improperly filled out application Rami submitted.

In the country of origin section on the application, Rami stated he's from "the occupied territory of Ramallah" instead of the West Bank, which has seen fighting between Palestinians and Israelis over decades.

The United States does not recognize Palestine as a state.

Hlatky said that if a German exchange student the board also approved to study in the district this year had listed a country of origin of Berlin instead of Germany, he'd raise the same issue.

"My concern was that his application was not filled out correctly," Hlatky said. "It raises a flag. I want to make sure we know exactly who we have coming into the district."

-- Reach Greg Gross at