Student Suspended After Alleged Anti-Semitic Incident

By Rick Sallinger

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– Jefferson County Public Schools has suspended an eighth grade student after what sounds like a horrifying incident that sounded like an act of hate, but may have been an inappropriate joke that went too far.

It happened at Oberon Middle School in north Jefferson County. A boy was loosely tied to a soccer goal post and was told “Burn, Jew, burn.”

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Oberon Middle School in Jeffco Schools (credit: CBS)

Diana Wilson, a spokesperson for Jeffco Schools, says they don’t condone that behavior.

“You don’t use ethnic slurs, racism isn’t okay in our schools. Any time this happens we are going to take action,” she told CBS4 Investigator Rick Sallinger.

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Oberon Middle School in Jeffco Schools (credit: CBS)

The district learned about the incident on an anonymous school survey that asked students about their experiences this past year. The district investigated and suspended the boy believed responsible. He was also barred from an awards presentation.

CBS4 learned rather than this being a hate incident as initially described those who contacted the station, the boys are friends and both are Jewish.

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Oberon Middle School in Jeffco Schools (credit: CBS)

But, the incident comes after allegations of anti-Semitism at West Jeffco Middle School including a student, Isabella Grunspan, who addressed the school board earlier this year.

She told the board, “I have to constantly deal with anti-Semitism and ever since then, that Hitler was a genius.”

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(credit: CBS)

She has since complained about her experiences to Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat representing Colorado, in a public forum. The Department of Education Office for Civil Rights has not yet released its report on an investigation into the matter.

Another student at the school had a swastika drawn on his arm by other students. A teacher at West Jeffco has also complained about incidents of anti-Semitism.

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Oberon Middle School in Jeffco Schools (credit: CBS)

As the school year ended, the West Jeffco principal sent a letter to parents stating ethnic slur complaints were investigated as soon as they came to light and students were disciplined for violating school policy when appropriate.

At Mandalay Middle School, students were suspended after making anti-Semitic remarks and drawings.

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Diana Wilson with Jeffco Schools (credit: CBS)

Wilson acknowledged there have been problems, “Jeffco public schools has had to deal with a number of incidents involving anti-Semitism this year and we would like to reach out to our community, parents all of our community and say this is unacceptable.”

As the school year comes to a close, the district hopes so too are acts of ethnic intimidation.

CBS4’s Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.

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