June 1, 2012 – New York – AJC is gratified that the U.S. Department of Education’s investigation has determined, as AJC alleged, that incidents which “could have constituted harassment on the basis of Jewish ancestry/ethnicity,” occurred in the Vestal Central School District, outside of Binghamton, NY.
In 2011 AJC filed a complaint on behalf of a Jewish student, alleging a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. AJC claimed that this student (and other Jewish students) had been victimized by anti-Semitic bullying, which included chants of “Heil Hitler” and “Nazi.” Moreover, AJC recounted the intimidating of Jewish students on a so-called “Kick a Jew Day,” when they were not only kicked, but also subjected to additional bullying, including being subjected to Nazi salutes and symbols.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights issued a letter on May 21, 2012, noting “incidents of alleged harassment based on Jewish ancestry/ethnicity for numerous school years.”
The DOE and the Vestal school district have entered into a detailed agreement whereby the district commits to a series of concrete steps to “cure the alleged breach” of Title VI. These include specific action and reporting requirements, all designed to help Jewish students who had been victimized in the past and to prevent such incidents from occurring again.
“We are gratified that the Department of Education and the Vestal school district have agreed on the seriousness of the incidents, and a remedy which will change the culture of the school,” said Kenneth Stern, AJC’s director on anti-Semitism and extremism.
“All students, not only Jewish ones, will be able to learn in an environment which rejects, rather than condones, hatred.”
Stern also applauded the “courage of the Jewish student, who showed how standing up for what is right, even at personal risk, can create important institutional change.”