NYC Department of Education Sued for Failure To Protect Teachers and Students From ‘Aggressive Anti-Semitism’

Brooklyn school and DOE officials declined to discipline students who chanted 'f— the Jews,' gave Nazi salutes, and posted swastikas in a Jewish teacher’s classroom

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee anti-Semitism
An anti-Semitic protester at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2019 ( petition)
May 3, 2024

Two public school employees are suing the New York City Department of Education for "failing to protect public school teachers and students from vile and aggressive anti-Semitism."

Origins High School in Brooklyn and Department of Education officials declined to discipline students after they marched through campus chanting "f— the Jews," gave Nazi salutes, and posted swastikas in a Jewish teacher’s classroom, according to the lawsuit. The court filing also accuses Origins High School principal Dara Kammerman of retaliating against teachers who complained about the incidents.

The lawsuit comes amid a surge in anti-Semitism at schools across the country in the wake of Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre in Israel. While many of those incidents have taken place on college campuses, anti-Semitism watchdogs say anti-Jewish attacks are also on the rise at lower level schools.

Jim Walden, an attorney for the public school employees who filed the suit, said it was "simply shocking that the DOE refused to protect its own people and—worse—retaliated against them to put a lid on the vile, anti-Semitic behavior."

The lawsuit was filed by Danielle Kaminsky, a teacher at Origins High School in Brooklyn, and Michael Beaudry, an administrator at the same school, in federal court on Friday. The New York City Department of Education and Kammerman are named as defendants.

Kaminsky, who is Jewish, said she complained to administrators after students at the school chanted "f— the Jews" and "Death to Israel" during a pro-Hamas protest on campus just four days after the October attacks in Israel.

She said the principal, Kammerman, declined to take action and accused her of exaggerating the problem. In the months that followed, a group of students targeted Kaminsky by drawing swastikas on her chalkboard, calling her a "dirty Jew," and pasting Palestinian flags on her door, according to the lawsuit.

Beaudry, the campus manager at Origins, said his complaints about the anti-Semitism were also brushed away by Kammerman. He said Kammerman discouraged him from reporting to the police a bomb threat from one of the students. Shortly after, another student was caught trying to bring explosives into the school, according to the lawsuit.

The school later moved Beaudry to "work from home" status, which the lawsuit alleges was in retaliation for his complaints.

New York City public schools spokesman Nathaniel Styer said the department is reviewing the lawsuit. He said schools chancellor David Banks has initiated a "Meeting the Moment" plan to address anti-Semitism "quickly with appropriate discipline, education, and engagement with our communities."

"Every country in the world is represented in NYC Public Schools, and our schools are not insulated from global events, nor the hate, fear, or bigotry that accompanies times like these," said Styer. "Students and staff deserve to be safe and respected in their school and Origins High School is no different. We will review this lawsuit."

The employees are represented in the lawsuit by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under the Law, an anti-Semitism legal watchdog group.

The Brandeis Center’s Mark Goldfeder, who is a counsel on the lawsuit, said primary schools and high schools are experiencing a similar spike in anti-Semitic incidents as U.S. colleges in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel.

"We are seeing the same kind of ‘anti-Zionist’ anti-Semitism manifest itself earlier and earlier," said Goldfeder during a press briefing on Capitol Hill on Friday. He said his group has heard from parents of children as young as five who are facing anti-Semitic harassment at school.

The Brandeis Center recently filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education on behalf of an eighth grade boy who has faced "daily abuse" from other students after he wore the Israeli Olympic jersey for Jewish baseball player Ian Kinsler.

According to the complaint, officials at the middle school in North Carolina ignored the harassment against the student, who was allegedly physically assaulted, called a "filthy Jew," and told to "get in a gas chamber" by a group of classmates.

"It would be hard to overstate the impact this has had on my child," said the boy’s mother, who asked for her name to be withheld, during a briefing on Capitol Hill on Friday. "As a parent this has been completely devastating."