CBS4

Report: Anti-Semitism & ‘Hostile Environment’ Found At Conifer School

By Rick Sallinger

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – A U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights investigation determined serious anti-Semitic actions took place at a Jefferson County school.

The report found a “hostile environment” existed at West Jefferson Middle School in Conifer during the last school year.

The report obtained by CBS4 investigator Rick Sallinger stated, “anti-Semitic harassment was persistent, pervasive and severe.”

In January, student Isabella Grunspan appeared before the Jefferson County School board to complain about the handling of complaints about anti-Semitic remarks and actions.

“I constantly deal with anti-Semitism and other students saying that ‘Hitler was a genius,'” she told them.

Isabella Grunspan speaks at a Jefferson County School Board meeting. (credit: CBS)

The OCR found in the report, “…insufficient evidence to conclude that the district discriminated as alleged.”

Jefferson County Public Schools Chief Communications Officer Diana Wilson said, “I think it’s (the report) really supportive of our policies and that we are really doing the right work in a bad situation.”

She added it’s not acceptable to have that type of behavior displayed by the students.

(credit: CBS)

The school suspended some students and presented programs on Holocaust awareness and anti-bullying.

Wilson said the staff also published a proper anti-discrimination, anti-harassment and anti-bullying policy, launched an investigation into each complaint, notified parents about the situation and provided emotional support for targets of the misconduct among other measures.

The government report also cited a previous CBS4 report about a victim in the report.

In that story in February, parent Niki Cooper showed Sallinger a swastika on her son’s arm.

She said, “He said that someone else at school had drawn on him, and it was a swastika. I was shocked.” Her son, Cody, added, “They said it was Nazi. I just really let it pass. I don’t know what a Nazi is.”

Swastika drawn onto students arm. (credit: CBS)

Six separate acts were verified according to the report. One act included a swastika drawn on the school building and notebooks and also anti-Semitic jokes made by students.

Other acts were not able to be substantiated.

Bill Finger, the attorney for the Grunspan’s family told CBS4, the findings were no surprise.

The determination by OCR that the district adequately addressed these problems is shocking for the Grunspan’s and teachers who blew the whistle.

Finger added that they have made a Freedom of Information Act request of records and communications between the local and national offices and other pertinent documentation concerning the process and investigation.

(credit: CBS)

“The preliminary indication from the local office is that there will be resistance providing full information. This may cause seeking court intervention to obtain full and frank disclosure of what really occurred and why. If we obtain information from the Office for Civil Rights that gives us a clear picture of the process and investigation, the Grunpan’s are willing to share the information with the public because this is a critical issue for students, parents and the public,” Finger said.

He added it is possible the Grunspan’s may even seek assistance of elected public officials to get to the truth of the matter.

Scott Levin, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation league told CBS4, “I’m really proud of students who felt harassed in hositle environment were able to speak out.”

The district says no incidents have been reported so far this school year.

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.

Visit Full Site