Jewish student files lawsuit against NJ school over antisemitism

The main even reported in the lawsuit is that, in 2018, a MAST student sent a photo of another student lying on the beach with the words “I H8 JEWS” written in the sand.

Marine Academy of Science and Technology  (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Marine Academy of Science and Technology
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Last week, a Jewish student filed a federal lawsuit claiming her high school, the Marine Academy of Science and Technology (MAST) in Middletown, New Jersey, failed to take meaningful steps and protect her when she faced systematic antisemitic harassment, The New York Post reported.
The New York Post listed the different antisemitic incidents the student, Paige, reported in the lawsuit.
First, when she was just a freshman in 2015, classmates made fun of her last name Guiffre, calling her “Jew Fray,” and a teacher laughed, saying “I wouldn’t want a last name like that,” Paige recalled, The New York Times reported.
Then, during her sophomore year, Paige said she saw some classmates read Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf and others “drawing images of swastikas in their notebooks and on school lunch tables.” School officials did not act, according to the lawsuit.
However, the main even reported is that in 2018, during Page's junior year, a MAST student sent a photo of another student lying on the beach with the words “I H8 JEWS” written in the sand.
When Paige reported the antisemitic photo, she got called a “snitch” by her classmates. And, when the students responsible for taking the photo got punished by the school, Paige's classmates began “engaging in a large-scale and explicitly coordinated campaign of retribution,” the lawsuit states.
As an example, a fellow student allegedly placed a rock in close proximity to her desk with the word “Adolf” painted on it, The New York Post reported.
An online petition to “snub the snitch” was launched as well. "Paige has become the school pariah," Paige's father had written at the time of the incident to the school's principal. Paige was constantly crying and refusing to go to school, The New York Times reported. “No one stood by me,” Paige said.
At the end of the school year, Paige’s parents filed a complaint with the state attorney-general’s division of civil rights, saying that she had been subjected to antisemitic conduct and faced harassment for reporting it.
The state attorney-general’s investigation found that while the school's principal had punished the students responsible for the photo, he had not filed a bullying report and did not investigate Paige's other antisemitism claims, The New York Times explained.
Paige was forced to drop out of the school at the end of junior year, despite her 4.0 GPA. She told The New York Post last week that “I’m forever saddened that this happened to me, but I have grown to accept that my family and I did the right thing by reporting it. I am trying to move forward but this will always be something I carry.”
“She did not go to her senior prom. She did not walk in a graduation ceremony. Her adjustment to college has been very challenging. Her sense of self-worth has been severely compromised," her lawyer, Eric Hecker, wrote.
“The school officials do not appear to appreciate the seriousness of their failure to provide an appropriate educational environment, so now a jury will decide whether they broke the law,” Hecker added.
The two boys have described the photo as a sarcastic joke that was not meant to target Paige, arguing that they are not antisemitic.
This was not the first antisemitic incident at MAST. The New York Times reported that Amy Schneider, a former MAST student, said she was bullied when she was a student there; she recalled swastikas written on her belongings, Hitler salutes and Holocaust jokes. But she never reported it, saying that "I felt like bullying was an accepted part of being in school."