(JTA) — The superintendent of a New York State school district that has been accused of anti-Semitic harassment said the district “has a long history of acceptance and tolerance.”
Joan Carbone, superintendent of the Pine Bush Central School District 90 miles north of New York City, acknowledged in a statement issued Sunday that the school is getting “much media attention” since a New York Times article published on Friday reported on the years of swastikas and anti-Semitic behavior on the part of students there.
The alleged behavior caused three Jewish families to file a lawsuit against the school district and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to order investigations into the allegations of anti-Semitic harassment.
“We are confident that the investigations from the Governor’s office will demonstrate our intolerance for racism and acceptance of diversity in our District,” Carbone wrote in the statement.
“The Pine Bush School District has a long history of acceptance and tolerance and we appreciate all the support we have received from those who know our vested interest in creating a welcoming environment for all students,” it concluded.
Citing depositions in the lawsuit, The New York Times reported that Jewish students have complained of anti-Semitic epithets and nicknames, jokes about the Holocaust, being forced to retrieve coins from dumpsters and physical violence. Fellow students are accused of making Nazi salutes and telling anti-Semitic jokes.
“The reports of rampant anti-Semitic harassment and physical assaults at Pine Bush schools, if true, are deeply disturbing,” Cuomo said in a statement issued Friday.
“The public has a right to know the truth and parents across the state have the right to know that their children can attend our schools without fear of this reprehensible behavior,” the statement said.
Parents of the students who say they have suffered from the anti-Semitic incidents said that the school district did not take complaints seriously and that the complaints of anti-Semitic harassment were isolated, according to the Times.
The school district says it took the appropriate disciplinary actions and that anti-Semitic behavior is not widespread in the district.
In the 1970s, Pine Bush was the home of the grand dragon of a Ku Klux Klan chapter whose wife sat on the district’s school board, according to the Times.