Friday, November 8, 2013

NYS Probes Reports of Anti-Semitic Incidents in Hudson Valley School

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has asked the state police and the state's Division of Human Rights to look into the rash of anti-Semitic attacks in one Hudson Valley town, according to published reports this afternoon by the Associated Press. Swastikas were scrawled at a school in the Pine Bush Central District.

These disturbing attacks come on the eve of the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht attacks in Nazi Germany. Yet some of these attacks apparently have been going on for weeks now.

Students have been subjected to anti-Semitic slurs. Additionally, one Jewish youth was beaten with a hockey stick. One girl experienced a swastika being forcibly drawn on her face. Swastikas were left on school walls for months, not erased. Due to school inaction, families of three students took the schools to court. Pine Bush was the seat of Ku Klux Klan activity in the 1970s. One of the school board members had been a Klan member.

Governor Cuomo's letter today to Education Commissioner John King reads:
Dear Commissioner King,

I write to express my serious concern with reports of anti-Semitic harassment including physical attacks at Pine Bush Central School District.

The alleged behavior is nothing that should ever be tolerated in our schools: swastikas drawn on school property remaining for "weeks or months," anti-Semitic slurs and caustic Holocaust jokes directed at Jewish students – at times with school faculty present – and physical attacks including a Jewish student being beaten with a hockey stick and another having a swastika forcibly drawn on her face. As recently as last year, three of the students’ families filed suit in court.

Today I directed the State Police and the Division of Human Rights to investigate the alleged acts of anti-Semitism. I fully expect the State Department of Education (SED) to be forthcoming to parents across New York State regarding the Department's knowledge of these reprehensible acts and what, if any, steps have been taken to ensure Pine Bush students of Jewish origin can attend their school without being subject to anti-Semitic attacks.

If these reports are true, I would like to know what, if anything, SED knew about this situation and if you or your department was aware, when you became aware, and what SED has done to investigate and/or address the situation.

Sincerely,

GOVERNOR ANDREW M. CUOMO
UPDATE: U.S. Cites Evidence of Anti-Semitism in School District:
The U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of the State of New York has asked a federal judge "for permission to file a “statement of interest” so the government could make its views known concerning the allegations in the private suit." The NY Times on Jan. 25 reported in "U.S. Cites Evidence of Anti-Semitism in School District" that federal legal officers wrote that information gathered after an investigation “is sufficient for a jury to find that the district failed to respond to pervasive anti-Semitic harassment in its schools.”