School District Faces Accountability for Indifference to Anti-Semitic Bullying
Brian Nettles, Esq.
What does the law demand of schools when it comes to bullying? A recently decided case out of New York state ruled that schools must take steps “reasonably calculated” to end harassment when it amounts to a “culture” of bias in the school.
This means that lunch detention for bullies and a few anti-bullying assemblies won’t always be enough. But it also doesn’t mean that schools have to get rid of bullying entirely, which is a tough feat to say the least. So what does it
Try again, and try harder. Just because bullying can’t be 100% prevented, doesn’t mean that schools should be allowed to carry out the bear minimum of administration in making sure schools are a safe and peaceful place of learning for our children. In this case, five Jewish children were subjected to persistent anti-Semitic harassment from elementary school through high school. The harassment was verbal, physical and visual, including Nazi salutes, drawings, physical violence, and chants of “White Power.” While the school district argued that it should not be held responsible because it held assemblies and disciplined students when necessary, the court found evidence proved otherwise. The judge ruled that a jury could reasonable find that the school district was “deliberately indifferent to harassment” and “failed to take reasonable steps to combat anti-Semitic harassment.”
The school district, Pine Bush Central, has a haunting past. Just 90 minutes from New York City, it was the home of the “Grand Dragon” of the Klu Klux Klan in the 1970’s, whose wife sat on the school board. Needless to say, Pine Bush Central, like many towns in America today, has the challenge of overcoming its roots and dismantling systemic bias. This court decision is a strong step in the right direction of holding administrations accountable to combat harassment in schools and communities in the best way that they can.
If you or a loved one has suffered harassment and discrimination at school, in the workplace, or in your community, reach out to an attorney. You may be able to explore legal options.