CONIFER, Colo. (CBS4) – The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights is investigating West Jefferson Middle School over allegations of harassment of a student because she is Jewish.READ MORE: Ballpark Shooting: Michael Close Pleads Not Guilty By Reason Of Insanity In Death Of Isabella Thallas, Family Says
Eighth-grader Isabella Grunspan told the Jefferson County School District Board in January she is being picked on because she of her religion.
Grunspan said she has been told she should be put in an oven like the other six million Jews and gassed like the Zika virus.
She said she went to the administration but was told not to take it too seriously because she is just a middle school student. Grunspan’s father then filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights charging the school failed to respond appropriately to harassment of his daughter.
For its part, West Jefferson Middle School began conducting social awareness programs the students.
School district Chief Communications Officer Diana Wilson told CBS4 Investigator Rick Sallinger there are different types of ways of getting the message across.
“They discuss tolerance, they discuss diversity awareness, they discuss having a respectful environment,” Wilson said. “So quite a few topics covered on a monthly basis for the entire student body.”
She said there will be an anti-bullying program in the future.
But Grunspan’s family does not think enough has been done.
“Was any apology offered to this student?” Sallinger asked Wilson.
“That’s a good question,” she replied. “I’m not aware of an apology. I am aware of the discipline and I am aware of the actions the school is taking to make sure that this is a more welcoming environment.”
It has not been welcoming for Grunspan. In her comments to the school board meeting she added, “I also had a teacher tell me that I should stick with another Jewish girl because she was being picked on because she was, too, Jewish.”READ MORE: Stimulus Check Update: When Might Your $1,400 Economic Relief Payment Arrive?
She told the board is what her grandmother was told by the Nazis as she was taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Bill Finger, an attorney for the Grunspan family, issued a statement saying the Office for Civil Rights may be looking into whether the problem of anti-Semitic activity is more widespread than just West Jefferson Middle School. A report on the investigation is expected soon.
Public Statement By Isabella And Gabriel Grunspan
Recently the Grunspans have been contacted by the public media and asked to discuss and appear before cameras to publicize their efforts and struggles to address anti-Semitic issues that occurred in Isabella’s middle school. Last month Isabella bravely stood before the Jefferson County School District Board at her own request and spoke about her experiences and how things had turned ugly because she was Jewish at the West Jefferson Middle School. Since this appearance and outcry for help to remediate the situation for herself and others, there has been no response from the school board or any high ranking official; not a single acknowledgement that this was a real concern or valid issue.
The Grunspans do not feel it is appropriate to go on camera or provide additional details about the discriminatory behaviors directed against persons of the Jewish faith. Isabella was very eloquent and sincere when she spoke before the school board. The Grunspans have asked their attorney William Finger to answer questions posed by the public media. The Grunspans seek privacy and protection at this time.
Mr. Finger confirms that a formal complaint has been filed with the Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights alleging discriminatory and retaliatory violation of the law. It is also confirmed that the complaint was accepted and is under investigation by the Office for Civil Rights. That Office may be looking at whether the problem of anti-Semitic activity is more widespread than just the West Jefferson Middle School.
It is expected that an investigatory report will be shortly completed and submitted to high officials. What Isabella Grunspan wants is full and complete remediation to safeguard all students rights now and into the future. The Grunspans do not feel that any individual teacher is responsible for the anti-Semitic activities, but that the fault lays on school and District officials and administrators. After the OCR findings are issued the Grunspans may have further comment.
Information From Diana Wilson Jefferson County Public Schools Spokesperson
The safety of our students is paramount. We work diligently every day to maintain a safe school environment including addressing students who may use discriminatory language on campus. In support of that principle, our staff investigates all reports of or evidence regarding student behavior that could pose a threat to the safety or welfare of our students.
The parent of the student, while meeting with a district achievement director about student success, nebulously mentioned something about a student being discriminated against and/or bullied at one of our schools. The following day, school officials immediately investigated the incident. At the conclusion of the investigation, it was determined that anti-Semitic remarks were made in violation of district policies and protocols.
The student involved in the incident was appropriately disciplined. In addition to taking disciplinary action, school officials arranged for the counseling department and the social emotional learning specialist to provide lessons in every language arts class on social awareness.
The school officials have since implemented monthly social awareness lessons that are taught on a rotating basis in all core classes. Those lessons not only include social awareness, but also touch on the Code of Conduct and consequences for failing to follow the Code of Conduct.MORE NEWS: Colorado Researchers Discover Hint Of Scorching-Hot Planet Orbiting Vega