TORONTO (JTA) — A classmate setting a Jewish girl’s hair on fire was not an act of anti-Semitism, a Canadian court ruled.
In a Jan. 2 decision, the judge in Winnipeg agreed with prosecutors that the assailant had been a “jerk and bully” but said the “totally vulgar and inappropriate” incident in November 2011 was impulsive, unplanned and not racially motivated, the Winnipeg Free Press reported.
The girl’s attacker, now 17, pleaded guilty to charges of assault with a weapon stemming from the incident at the Winnipeg high school he formerly attended.
The judge agreed to a joint submission requiring the attacker to receive counseling, write a letter of apology and perform 75 hours of community service work.
“You are fortunate,” the judge told the defendant. “I hope you take advantage of counseling.”
The defense said it was not the offender’s specific intention to burn the girl’s hair and he did not pick on the classmate because she was Jewish. It noted that a therapist who made a court-ordered psychological evaluation of the defendant said the offense “was an impulsive teenage action.”
According to prosecutors, the teen approached the then 15-year-old victim, pulled out a lighter and started flicking it near her head, saying “let’s burn the Jew.” A portion of the girl’s hair caught fire and was singed.
The girl did not suffer lasting physical injuries but, according to her victim impact statement, the incident “changed her world upside down.” She spent time in therapy to deal with the resulting fear and anger.