HIGHLANDS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A college student who says she was discriminated against at her high school because she’s Jewish has a filed a discrimination lawsuit against a Monmouth County school district.
She only wanted to use her first name, but she shared her story with CBS2’s Meg Baker on Monday to help others who’re feeling the ugliness of antisemitism.
She said one picture in particular was the last straw. It was taken in 2018 on the beach on Sandy Hook, showing a teen boy laying next to “I h8 Jews” written in the sand.
“Paige,” a Jewish student at MAST — the Marine Academy of Science and Technology — in the borough of Highlands, was on the text chain. This wasn’t the first anti-Semitic incident.
“The naval science teacher was like pronouncing one of student’s names, and he called it Guy-frey, and the student was like, no, my last name Giuffre [Jew-frey]. Two of the naval science teachers were in the room and they both giggled. They were like Giuffre, that’s like a last name that … that’s a bad last name I wouldn’t want to have,” Paige said.
Paige, who is away at college, said she also found a rock near her desk. It appears to say “Adolf.” Upside down it says “hope.”
Her mom’s biggest regret is not pulling her out of MAST sooner. She said reporting incidents did nothing to change the negative culture.
“She had come home and said, ‘Mom, did you ever hear of a book called ‘Mein Kampf?’ And I said, ‘Oh my goodness, why? You are not studying that’ …. ‘The kids are reading it at free read. A teacher recommended it,'” her mother said.
The beach photo prompted an investigation by the New Jersey attorney general, which found probable cause that the school and district discriminated against Paige based on her religion.
No one from MAST would go on camera, but in a statement the school said it is committed to providing a safe and inclusive learning environment, adding the school worked with the Jewish Federation to address the overall school climate. The students involved with the beach photo received four-day suspensions.
However, Paige’s mom said the harassment continued. Her daughter had to transfer to another school her senior year.
“It caused me to have trust issues with people, Now in college, making friends has been tougher because of that,” Paige said.
Paige is suing the school for discrimination. A lawyer representing the boy in the beach photo did not get back to CBS2 with a comment, but called the photo a “tongue in cheek sarcastic joke” to other media sources.
Two of the boys involved in the beach photo had their college acceptances revoked after the attorney general’s investigation.