Bullied for Being Jewish Parents Sue School for Alleged Inaction
9 August 2013 - 12:03am | jadams
by jadams (Staff)
Carver, Mass. - Parents of a 13 year old boy have filed a lawsuit against a school department and senior staff, following years of alleged religious harassment and bullying at a school.
The Carver School Department and the school officials are being sued for allegedly failing to take action during the two years Z. G. was being abused because he is Jewish.
“While the Defendants have occasionally punished the bullies for their violent acts, they have done nothing to address the pervasive religious harassment underlying the behavior, despite repeated complaints by Z. G.’s parent about the anti-Semitic attacks,” the complaint alleges.
The complaint was filed at the US District Court in Boston on July 30 by the plaintiff’s parents, Jennyfer Sordillo and Robert Groezinger; their son, a minor, is only identified by his initials, Z. G.
Described as having a diminutive build, Z. G. is about 4 feet 10 inches tall, and has allegedly been bullied by a group of about six boys, all of whom are bigger than him; the boys, also minors, are identified by their initials only.
Beginning in the summer before he entered sixth grade at Carver Middle High School, he was targeted with anti-Semitic verbal and physical abuse.
On a daily basis, when in hallways, the cafeteria, and also during class, Z. G. was called slurs such as, “dirty Jew,” “fucking Jew,” and “Jew boy.”
Some of his alleged abusers have raised their arms “in a Heil Hitler salute,” and one boy also told him “he needed to get in the oven.”
At a Halloween event at the school, Z. G. was physically assaulted by two of the bullies, and had his wallet stolen.
On other occasions they began throwing pennies at him, calling him a “stingy Jew” in the process.
“They sometimes told him that they left pennies in the cafeteria and at Cumberland Farms near his house for him to pick up – implying that he would retrieve the pennies because he was Jewish,” the complaint claims.
In another alleged incident during the school’s “Spirit Week,” he was wearing a favored yarmulke with a Red Sox logo when, “One of his teachers, however, tracked Z. G. down in the hallway and ordered him to remove the yarmulke because she found it offensive; she claimed that other people at school were complaining about it. Z. G. told the teacher that he was Jewish, but she said that did not matter. As a result, Z. G. took off the yarmulke, unhappily.”
In a serious physical incident on May 28, following harassment by the bullies in the cafeteria, he was pushed and punched in the head several times, leaving him with “welt on the left side of his head, bruises along his temple, and a headache for the rest of the day,” the complaint alleges.
“A few weeks after this, Z. G. and Ms. Sordillo found a swastika etched in chalk outside their driveway.”
As a result of the alleged abuse her son was receiving and the religious basis of the harassment, Sordillo repeatedly contacted senior school officials, calling the school several times each week.
She contacted the school’s Principal Scott Knief and Assistant Principal Christine Cabral – who are both named defendants along with School Superintendent Elizabeth Sorrel – but claims that they did nothing to stop the harassment despite reassurances from them that they would monitor the situation.
“As long as the harassment and bullying did not involve actual fights, the Defendants turned a blind eye,” the complaint alleges.
Despite multiple meetings with Cabral and Knief, it is alleged that the defendants did not respond appropriately to the situation with any of the steps identified in the school’s own bullying guidelines.
In regard to the alleged incident with the Red Sox yarmulke, Sordillo spoke with the teacher involved and Cabral, but neither “appreciated that the incident had upset Z. G. and offended Ms. Sordillo. There was no effort by school officials, including the Defendants, to discuss the incident further with Z. G. or Ms. Sordillo, and no apology was offered.”
It’s claimed that Z. G. who enjoys basketball and baseball, and had good grades, now plays basketball in another town, did not sign up for little league baseball this summer, has trouble concentrating in class due to worry, and is receiving lower school grades.
“At various points in the seventh grade, Z. G. commented to Ms. Sordillo that he sometimes wishes he wasn’t Jewish. He also hates going to school now. He has said several times to Ms. Sordillo when she drops him off in the morning how he wished he did not have to go specifically because of the harassment and bullying,” according to the complaint.
Since the beginning of the alleged abuse, Sordillo has made multiple reports to the Carver Police Department, and claims that the defendants never did so.
“Unlike the Defendants, the Police Department takes the bullying and harassment of Z. G. seriously. When Ms. Sordillo contacted the Police Department about the May 28 assault, the police officer with whom she spoke expressed shock that school officials had not alerted the Police Department about the incident,” the complaint claims.
It also says that the two of the bullies were arraigned on assault and battery, and civil right charges in relation to the harassment.
The defendants have yet to file an answer to the complaint.
The plaintiffs are seeking an order to prevent religious harassment and bullying and to compel the defendants to comply with their own bullying plan, as well as compensation, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees.
The case will be heard by Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV.
This article was produced for Open Media Boston's Open Court Project.