Anti-Semitic Student Harassment Case Continues

In TE v. Pine Bush Central School Dist, the Southern District of New York denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment on plaintiffs/students’ Title VI claims.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, codified at 42 U.S.C. § 2000(d), provides that

[n]o person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

Plaintiffs, five Jewish students who attended schools in the Pine Bush Central School District, alleged that they were subjected to horrific anti-Semitic harassment, and that the school didn’t do enough to stop it.

In finding that plaintiffs were subjected to severe and discriminatory harassment, the court held, for example:

Plaintiffs have also identified sufficient facts to support a jury conclusion that T.E., O.C., and D.C. were subjected to severe and discriminatory harassment. These Plaintiffs’ depositions catalogue numerous incidents for each Plaintiff that exceed the sort of non-actionable simple acts of teasing and name-calling among school children. … Taking Plaintiffs’ testimony as true for the purposes of the instant Motion, the three Plaintiffs here had anti-Semitic slurs repeatedly directed at them, witnessed swastika graffiti, and were subjected to anti-Semitic “jokes.” Both T.E. and D.C. were also called “crispy” or told that they should have been burned in the Holocaust. In addition, D.C. and O.C. both claim to have suffered physical harassment, including being slapped, physically restrained, and having coins thrown at them. Plaintiffs allegedly continued to suffer harassment at PBE, Crispell, and, for D.C. and O.C., throughout the duration of their time at PBHS. Moreover, Plaintiffs suffered from more than one or two isolated incidents of racial harassment. Accordingly, a jury could reasonably conclude that Plaintiffs suffered “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive” harassment.

The court also held that defendants were deliberately indifferent to the harassment suffered by plaintiffs. For example:

A reasonable jury could find that, while the District may have taken some steps to combat the culture of anti-Semitism in its schools, the handful of assemblies-which addressed only students in T.E. and O.C.’s grade-could not have plausibly changed the anti-Semitic sentiments of the student harassers, many of whom were not classmates of T.E. and O.C. These assemblies also did nothing to target anti-Semitism among the students who harassed.

The court, however, granted defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ claims against the individual defendants in their official capacity.