Upstate New York School District Settles Anti-Semitism Suit

PINE BUSH, N.Y. (AP/Hamodia) -

An upstate New York school district will pay $4.48 million and institute curriculum and training reforms to settle a lawsuit filed by five current and former Jewish students who claimed they were victims of anti-Semitism in the schools.

The suit, originally filed in 2012, accused Pine Bush Central School District officials of failing to take action to protect the students from anti-Semitic bullying from other students for years, The New York Times reported.

The Jewish students said they were subjected to racial epithets, physical violence, Nazi salutes and other forms of intimidation at the hands of 35 fellow students, spanning several grade levels. The district claimed that it had taken appropriate action and former superintendent Philip Steinberg had said that some claims were “embellished.” In November, Judge Kenneth M. Karas denied Pine Bush’s request to dismiss charges.

“Anti-Semitic harassment is wrong,” the school district and plaintiffs said in a joint statement. “The district will never condone anti-Semitic slurs or graffiti, Holocaust ‘jokes’ or physical violence. No family should have to experience the hurt and pain that bullying and name-calling can cause children to endure because of their religious, national or cultural identity.”

The settlement called for mandatory training for faculty and staff on recognizing and reporting anti-Semitic harassment. The district will also maintain an anti-bullying curriculum developed with the Anti-Defamation League. Pine Bush has already implemented several steps to “enhance its curriculum on tolerance.”

“The purpose of the required reforms is simple: to ensure that no student in the district has to endure such horrific anti-Semitic or racist harassment ever again,” said Ilann Maazel, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

Monday’s agreement is subject to approval by Judge Karas, who would retain responsibility for enforcing the settlement. It would provide the students with two-thirds of the $4.48 million settlement. The rest will be used for attorneys’ fees.