PINE BUSH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A school district in Orange County is accused of looking the other way as students were subjected to anti-Semitic bullying.
As CBS 2’s Lou Young reported Friday, the allegations are so serious that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has stepped in.
A federal lawsuit filed by three local families in Pine Bush claims the school district tolerates the harassment of Jewish students.
Lawsuit exhibits include pictures of Nazi and Ku Klux Klan graffiti and anecdotes of bullying aimed at Jewish students.
“On a regular basis, they were bullied and faced anti-Semitic harassment in the form of swastikas, graffiti, being pelted with coins, sometimes being beaten. And it happened on a regular basis for years,” public justice attorney Adele P. Kimmel said.
The district says it has intervened in all types of bullying but denies there’s a pattern of anti-Semitism.
“We believe that Pine Bush is a very tolerant community and as a school district, we are very proactive in promoting acceptance for all students,” Pine Bush Central School District Superintendent Joan Carbone told Young.
The issue divides the community, Young reported. Two Jewish teachers at Pine Bush High School looked at the front page story on the lawsuit and bristled.
“Nothing in those stories rang true to me,” teacher Mitch Silverberg told Young. “I have never witnessed any of that here at Pine Bush and I’ve been here 29 years.”
Inside the school, there are diversity posters on the walls and a classroom dedicated to learning about the Holocaust.
Yet outside on the street, a soccer coach from nearby Middletown said the town does have a reputation.
“I’m not saying it’s the entire population of Pine Bush, but everyone knew that the KKK had a local branch here,” Larry Glass told Young.
Local residents said that’s history from 40 years ago and welcomed the announcement by Gov. Cuomo that he’s launching a human rights investigation based on the lawsuit.
The school superintendent said she’ll be meeting with state police in that regard next week.
The district had 5,600 students drawn from the counties. Fewer than 10 percent are Jewish, Young reported.
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