Education officials from a Hudson Valley school district didn’t fully respond to claims of anti-Semitic harassment at its schools, forcing three Jewish families to sue for legal protection, federal prosecutors said in a legal filing Friday.
Government lawyers said in court papers that they’ve got enough evidence to show officials in the Pine Bush Central School District ignored signs that greater action was needed beyond punishing individual students, The New York Times reported.
The district’s leadership did not appear to have “engaged the school board or the faculty in any substantial discussion” specifically regarding anti-Semitic harassment, according to the legal filing. And the district “failed to ensure that school administrators were aware of the scope and nature of the problem across the district’s schools.”
A lengthy Times report in November detailed shocking incidents at the school some 90 minutes north of New York City, where swastikas were pervasive and as many as 35 students took part in harassing and beating Jewish students and in the insidious use of anti-Semitic slurs.
The school district has denied it condoned anti-Semitism and asked a judge to rule in their favor in a federal lawsuit brought by families of students who say they were discriminated against.
But Ilann Maazel, a lawyer for the families, said that the district should rectify the problem instead of devoting resources to defending themselves in court.
“This school district should take a hard look in the mirror, face the problem, and fix it once and for all,” Maazal told the Times.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he had directed the New York State Police and the State Division of Human Rights to investigate the allegations.
During his State of the State address earlier this month, Cuomo surprised Jewish observers by dwelling for about 10 minutes of the hour-long speech on condemning the anti-Semitism prevalent at the Pine Bush district, which serves about 5,600 children at schools in Orange, Sullivan and Ulster counties. He proposed amending state law to require school officials to notify the state police and other agencies if they become aware of such conduct.