School Pays Millions to End Anti-Semitism Suit


     MANHATTAN (CN) – An upstate New York school district can resolve allegations that it tolerated a shocking climate of anti-Jewish hatred by paying $4.48 million to the victims and instituting sweeping reforms, a federal judge ruled.
     Nestled in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, Pine Bush had a more than 90 percent white population of 1,780 residents at the time of its last census count, and its school district has been fighting alarming allegations at campuses for more than three years.
     Five Jewish children from elementary school and up accused administrators of brushing off complaints that their classmates chanted white-power slogans, carved swastikas and taunted them with Holocaust “jokes.”
     After U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas refused to boot the case late last year, the school district and the children reached a settlement that averted a trial he ordered.
     While Pine Bush Central School District’s superintendent Joan Carbone claimed in a statement that her district “never condoned any form of bullying, discrimination, or hateful messages/actions,” the settlement shows that she agreed to extensive measures to address the accusations against administrators.
     One of the terms requires that the district “promptly photograph and completely remove all anti-Semitic graffiti located on any school property.”
     The lawsuit alleged that a Spanish teacher and a principal at Pine Bush either dragged their feet after receiving complaints about swastika graffiti in the school.
     Under the agreement, the school district must review and revise its discrimination policies before next year to include a “zero indifference provision” for name-calling and bullying and inform parents every year that harassment will not be tolerated.
     Shortly after the filing of the lawsuit, Pine Bush instituted a No Place for Hate Committee, an organization whose role will be formalized into school policy under the agreement.
     The district will reach out to organizations like Anti-Defamation League, the Wiesenthal Center, and the Rockland County Holocaust Center for Education and Tolerance to help “develop and administer an anonymous anti-bullying survey” for all students starting in sixth grade, according to the agreement.
     The children’s lawyers at the firm Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP will be kept apprised of the district’s compliance for the next three years.
     “These five children stood up for themselves, for their community, and for what is right,” their attorney Ilann Maazel said in a statement. “After all the suffering, the isolation, and the trauma they endured, they should be proud that they made a difference in Pine Bush.”
     Their co-counsel at the Washington-based advocacy group Public Justice called the deal a “blueprint for what school districts across the country should do to prevent and address bullying in their schools.”
     “The education and training programs required by the settlement are a particularly crucial component of any anti-bullying plan,” its senior attorney Adele Kimmel said in a press release. “Because the brave students in this case don’t want others to suffer as they did, schools now have a roadmap for reducing harassment and improving tolerance.”

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