Pattye Benson

Community Matters

TE Middle School Student the Target of Anti-Semitic ‘Dirty Jew’ Attacks by Classmate

Image result for anti-semitismI was sent an Associated Press news article about a middle school student accused of anti-Semitic bullying and of making threats to a fellow student and asked if I was going to write about the situation. I opened the article, expecting to read about this latest horror story occurring in some faraway place – only to discover that the incident occurred in our own school district at TE Middle School in Berwyn.

According to the story, which the family shared with news media, the bully’s target was their 12 year old daughter who told him she was no longer interested in him. His response was to retaliate by texting images of Adolph Hitler and ‘dirty Jew’ remarks. He reportedly also threated to bring a gun to school and go after 33 classmates, including the female student who ‘broke up’ with him.

Although the male student faces criminal charges for his actions, the article states that he returned to school within a week. The female student was so afraid when the boy returned to school, that the family has removed her from the school for the remainder of the year.

I understand that the administration has to balance the safety of the female student and her classmates with the right to an education of the male student but personally it seems unfair that the alleged victim is the one not attending TE Middle School! According to 6ABC News, “the 12-year-old was charged with harassment and marking terroristic threats. He was suspended from school for five days.”

Chester County DA Tom Hogan was contacted for comment and the AP news article states that “ … he could not comment on pending cases but added he had no reason to think the girl’s parents would give an inaccurate account.”

Since the news article first surfaced, I have heard that the death threat against the 33 fellow classmates was investigated and dismissed by the school. I have no idea whether that the threat was real or not or if it was dismissed. However, what I do know is that anti-Semitic bullying is not simply a ‘cyber incident’ or a ‘boys will be boys’ situation. These are scary times we are living in – if a kid makes ‘dirty Jew’ comments and texts Adolph Hitler images at 12 years old, a simple “I’m sorry” does not cut it for me.

Besides the seriousness of the actual incident, in my opinion there is a significant problem with the fact that the other parents at the school were not notified by the school district. Instead, the parents and the community learn about the anti-Semitic act from the Associated Press! According to the news article, “School officials made no public announcement about the case, and other parents know only what they heard around town.” Subsequent to the AP news release, various versions of the story are appearing on the major TV networks.

Why does it take the anti-Semitic story working its way through to AP news channels and publically broadcast coast to coast for us to learn about it? To my knowledge and unless someone tells me differently, no letters were sent to the TE Middle School parents regarding the anti-Semitic situation.

The following statement is now on the TE School District website – I do not know when it first appeared or it it was specifically added as a result of this anti-Semitic incident as it is undated:

Response Protocol for Reported Threats

Since the February event at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the District has received some questions about how TESD responds when information about a potential threat is shared with school officials. The following is a short summary.

All reports involving threats are taken seriously. Once a report is received, the school opens an investigation. Depending upon what is learned, District responses may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Application of discipline consistent with District policy and school law
  • Police notification
  • Enhanced supervision and monitoring measures
  • Administration of risk assessment protocols involving mental health professionals to determine whether or not a student is a threat to self or others
  • Appropriate supports for involved students

Parents and students are encouraged to report potential threats to school administrators so the school may begin to investigate and implement appropriate measures.

It seems to me in the last few years we are hearing more and more of these anti-Semitic incidents. A little investigation and I found that for the last 39 years, the Anti-Defamation League has conducted a yearly audit of anti-Semitic incidents. The 2017 survey reported there were nearly 2,000 anti-Semitic incidents – the highest number recorded since conducting the first survey in 1979 and an increase by 57% over the previous year. The annual audit tracks incidents of vandalism, harassment or assault reported to the Anti-Defamation League by police, media and victims. Only verifiable incidents are included in the survey.

In previous audits, the majority of reported anti-Semitic incidents occurred in public areas, like parks. However, the most frightening statistic to emerge from the 2017 report indicates that 457 incidents occurred in K-12 schools – an increase of 94 percent from the previous year! And it is not geographic based – the anti-Semitic incidents reported in 2017 occurred in each of the 50 states, with Pennsylvania having the sixth highest number of incidents behind New York, California, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Florida.

Although I am not an educator, I am a parent and we are living in angry times. I know that there are two sides to every story and maybe I do not have all the facts but I know one thing for certain – hate-filled anti-Semitism has no place in our schools. The world should never forget that under Hitler’s leadership, some 6 million Jews were murdered during World War II.

All children need to feel safe at school. The school district went to great effort and expense to install fences around the schools. However, reflecting over the last several years, the threat has not come from outsiders (not to say that the District should not be prepared!) but rather internally – repeated assault of a female Conestoga student by a male District aide and assault of a learning disabled male student by a Conestoga aide and coach to name a couple.

Don’t sweep anti-Semitism under the carpet and turn a blind eye … use this as a teachable moment.

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  1. Just learned that today’s shooter is a middle school student at the Indiana school.

    People need to wake up! All threats need to be taken seriously and I don’t care what the age, even 12! Enough already about this still developing nonsense. A threat is a threat.

  2. To TE Parent, who seems to have posted every third comment on this Website, and repeats the message that “its nothing more than kids will be kids” and the parents of the victim are overreacting:

    (1) Sending multiple texts disparaging and threatening a fellow student because of his / her race, gender, ethnicity, or religion is NOT ACCEPTABLE (OR NORMAL) BEHAVIOR, even for a 12 year old. And no…kids that age do not make repeated vicious comments like that. It is highly unusual and very alarming.

    (2) Threatening to shoot 33 of your fellow classmates is NOT ACCEPTABLE (OR NORMAL) BEHAVIOR, even for a 12 year old. It is highly unusual and very alarming.

    (3) As I type this comment, news reports are coming in that a Middle School student in Indiana shot up his school. I wonder what warning signs may have been ignored in that child’s case:

    I am not advocating prohibiting the student bully at TE Middle School from ever returning. But keeping him out of the school for the last 3 weeks of the academic year (and allowing him to do work from home), while he receives professional counseling would probably have been a better approach for the School Administrators to have taken.

    Clearly the boy needs professional help and brushing his actions off as being nothing more than “kid talk” will not help him. Let’s hope he receives the help he needs.

    1. Realistic Parent,

      The boy was held accountable. He completed a psychological evaluation, he was suspended from school, and as TE Parent said, he has been identified and his behavior will be monitored. The DA is deciding whether to act on a juvenile complaint.

      This kid can’t catch a break. First Sante Fe and now Indiana. Unless the boy in Indiana was previously identified, both senseless tragedies have nothing to do with the case in TE. Even if the child in IN was previously identified, sometimes, it’s impossible to control or know what anyone is capable of carrying out in the future.

  3. Realistic Parent stated:

    I am not advocating prohibiting the student bully at TE Middle School from ever returning. But keeping him out of the school for the last 3 weeks of the academic year (and allowing him to do work from home), while he receives professional counseling would probably have been a better approach for the School Administrators to have taken.

    This is an interesting position to take. The conclusion from the professionals directly involved with the situation (the police, the DA, the administrators and the psychologist) and who had detailed information on the situation (rather than rumor) was that the boy provided no credible threat to his fellow classmates. Realistic Parent suggests a 3 to 4 week suspension with psychological counseling is more appropriate based on incomplete information, rumor and his/her feelings.

  4. There’s eyes upon this child and any suspicious behavior will be quickly identified. If required, he will receive the appropriate professional help.

  5. Thanks to everyone for commenting on the incident involving students in the T/E Middle school.

    I had sent an email to the school officials due to the fact that the victim, or the person being bullied or intimidated, wound up having to be home schooled because of the action by the perpetrator, who after receiving a certain disciplinary action was allowed to return to school.

    In 2016, I addressed the Philadelphia School District (PSD) concerning two specific instances in various schools. One victim was an eight year old threatened with death and the other was sixteen and severely beaten. In both instances, the victims had to transfer from their schools and disrupt their family’s situation while the alleged perpetrators were allowed back in the same school.

    The point of the matter is that the perpetrator should not be allowed back to the same school if the victim has to leave. The victim continues to be a victim, their families face additional problems, and the perpetrator receives a slap on the wrist without actually being penalized enough.

    I did a very extensive review of the PSD School Code of Conduct for the year 2015-2016, and in my email to the PSD Superintendent I included a list of concerns I noted from my review. The problem dealt with the way the code was worded versus the way it was enforced. Code versus action was not synchronized.

    In the current incident at TESD, the involved School Code of Conduct is more an overview rather than a very detailed publication as is the PSD code.

    Based on the ongoing problems associated with gun violence at schools throughout the country, I feel that all school administrations should now review the published codes in force, make adjustments based on the ongoing problems associated with gun violence at schools, and make sure that the perpetrators get help to address the issues involved. The goal should be to help prevent bullying, intimidation, and other actions by a young student so that the behavior exhibited can be nipped in the bud and removed or dismantled from existence, thereby changing the lives of so many young people as they develop and mature into properly functioning members of society.

    IT IS ESSENTIAL that the victims do not face displacement from their schools. If the violation hints at such a disruption, then the perpetrator should be made to leave the school rather than return even if the violation is minor. DISPLACEMENT of the victim and coddling the perpetrator enables bad behavior. The perpetrator needs to work on the issues covering the behavior. Displacing the victim rewards the bad behavior of the perpetrator.

    Perhaps the administrators can use that information to do something now to change the way students interact with each other and how the school administration rearranges its philosophy.

    Every concerned citizen needs to research an incident and take the time to review school codes of operation to be familiar with the administration’s responsibility in protecting its students. You can also contact the appropriate authorities, including your legislative representatives, and address your concerns.

    Remember, taking time to do something is very important. AND IT’S SIMPLE >>>> DON’T BE MAD, JUST MAD (JUST MAKE A DIFFERENCE).

    1. Mr. Leary- “If the violation hints at such a disruption, then the perpetrator should be made to leave the school rather than return even if the violation is minor”

      You cannot be serious.

      1. Mr. Leary,

        “IT IS ESSENTIAL that the victims do not face displacement from their schools. If the violation hints at such a disruption, then the perpetrator should be made to leave the school rather than return even if the violation is minor. DISPLACEMENT of the victim and coddling the perpetrator enables bad behavior. The perpetrator needs to work on the issues covering the behavior. Displacing the victim rewards the bad behavior of the perpetrator.”

        You cannot be serious. If you know anything about this case, you know that the girl did not face displacement from her school and you know that the boy was not coddled for his behavior and any hint otherwise would be an erroneous distortion of the facts in the case.

        It should also be noted that the Mother of the girl in this case is a Communications expert who is a Public Relations executive with a vast amount of experience in this arena.

        1. Stop trying to smear the victims. Could care less whether the mother is in PR. In fact I’m glad for it, as she is doing some good for the district in bringing up these issues before something tragic happens.

          And what about the boy’s parents? What have they done? If the mainline savvy article is correct, after they first found out about their son’s despicable, mean, bullying harassment of a girl who did nothing wrong, they didn’t even take his devices away, because he was back on chat attacking her again within hours. That is absolutely coddling. How about some criticism for that? If the parents had any concern about the victim they would voluntarily remove their son from the school, which would be an excellent lesson to the son about consequences–I’m sure TE could find an appropriate placement for him. TE’s hands may be tied because of current policy and the potential threat of legal action by the boy’s parents–but the parents could act appropriately at any time. My guess is that they don’t plan to, and this is why the kid has acted the way he has thus far–his parents tell him by their very actions that his bullying behavior is no big deal, just like all their defenders on this thread.

        2. How can you possibly know the disgusting anti-Semitic comments and threats of this kid and continue to attack his victim and her family! What kind of person are you? Who cares what the victim’s mother (or father) does for a living!

  6. The victim did nothing wrong and should be back in school with her friends enjoying the end of school. If that means she needs an adult escorting her to classes so be it. She should feel safe.
    The boy who bullied and threatened her should be out of school for the rest of the year with a TE tutor and anger management counseling.
    Seriously, his parents should be getting him counseling anyway. He obviously has an anger issue that he needs to resolve.

    And yes, Realistic Parent, “the kid” caught a break. He only got a 5 day suspension for emotionally abusing and making potentially harmful threats against a fellow student(and the student body if he carried it out).
    After all is said and done, he’ll probably get a slap on the wrist, his parents will have to experience some awkward situations with neighbors and the school district heads will walk away from another mess with a sigh of relief.

    1. These are my sentiments exactly, thank you.

      The picture is completely backwards, the victim is out of the school and has a tutor (and yes, I get it that’s the parents choice) whereas “the kid” is back at school. I truly hope that this boy had not “fully developed” as someone who posted suggested. But I have to say I struggle with angry, anti-Semitic comments as anywhere normal for a 12 year old.

  7. Apologies to Realistic Parent-great post.

    I meant to reply to Anonymous who also posted:
    “The boy was held accountable. He completed a psychological evaluation…”

    And the parents/taxpayers of TE should get the full results of that evaluation.
    Full-not a watered-down version.
    Parents deserve transparency from TE if there is to be trust.
    Hopefully, that happens through the focus groups.

    1. “And the parents/taxpayers of TE should get the full results of that evaluation.”

      by federal law, we are not entitled to those results. If you want to change that, then change the law.

      I would guess that you aren’t willing to share your childrens’ grades and evaluations on this website? Then don’t expect the same.

  8. TE Mom wants the full results of the psychological evaluation revealed to the public.

    That would be illegal under federal law:
    Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99)

    That would be illegal under state law:
    Section 1409. Confidentiality, Transference and Removal of Health Records.–All health records established and maintained pursuant to this act shall be confidential, and their contents shall be divulged only when necessary for the health of the child or at the request of the parent or guardian to a physician legally qualified to practice medicine and surgery or osteopathy or osteopathic surgery in the Commonwealth.

  9. Lisa,

    The boy was not coddled by the School District. The suspension, psychological evaluation, and pending charges by the DA demonstrates that this case is being addressed appropriately.

    I don’t think anyone on this thread believes his behavior was “no big deal.”

    Lisa and Unbelievable,

    I am not attacking or smearing the girl or her family by pointing out that the Mother is a PR executive.

  10. How about any communication about the school district employee that was arrested on school property for indecent exposure and open lewdness? He plead guilty and received 2 years probation. According to court records there was a minor victim. Based on the location this would most likely have been someone at TEMS. Any communication from the school on this one?
    Also it is nice how Tredyffrin Police Dept did not report this arrest on their website. Smoke some weed, they NAME you. argument with your neighbor, they NAME, you. Expose yourself to a minor. Nahh, you’re all good.

    1. Yes, that situation was ‘quietly’ handled wasn’t it — I heard that the employee resigned from his position with T/E upon his arrest. The incident occurred on school district property after hours.

  11. YouTube video Tredyffrin/Easttown Policy Committee Meeting Jan. 21, 2020

    A parent opened the Policy Committee Meeting on January 21, 2020 stating that her 6 year old Daughter with Down syndrome has a record at the Tredyffrin Police Department for making a threat to her teacher. She said The Threat assessment policy is being implemented in the elementary schools to the detriment of students.

    The Principal was notified of the threat and determined the child didn’t know or understand what she was saying and meant no harm to her teacher or any of her classmates. The threat assessment team was contacted and no disciplinary action was recommended by anyone——the teacher, the Principal or the child’s IEP team. Unfortunately, that’s not the end of this true story.

    The school notified the parents that Policy 5401 required the Administration to “consult” law enforcement. The parents insisted on being on the phone when the call was made to the Police Department. It was like a police report. Family address, names, and birthdays were recorded. When asked by the parents if this was a “consultation,” the officer responded, No. He said he was recording the info and it would be entered into the Departments data base and the information would not be deleted or expunged after any reasonable time period. He told the parents the information would be publicly available.

  12. Dr. Dewey Cornell at The University of VA, developoed the Threat Assessment Program, that TE’s program is modeled after and the parent stated that Dr. Dewey said in a recent Webinar to the effect that parents and schools are overreacting to perceived threats.

    She stated that the way the Policy is being implemented in TE, is much like the zero tolerance policy that experts say is ineffective and inappropriate and damaging especially for elementary school students. TE escalates it’s response to each and every incident regardless of how minor it may be or regardless of how young the student may be. She stated that a police record is created and archived in each and every incidence. She stated that students with intellectual disabilities are disproportionately disciplined in schools. She said that a District that criminalizes age appropriate non violent behavior is troubling. Students with disabilities are more likely to be victimized by these policies. The TE staff and Administration chose to interpret the Policy in the strictest possible way with no consideration that the child is in kindergarten and has a disability.

    She asked that the Board clarify Policy 5401. Chair Kyle Boyer said that her concerns were valid and heard. He asked Director of Assessment and Accountability Mark Cataldy to explain. He stated that the threat assessment model calls for the District to “consult” with law enforcement. Someone on the Board asked for clarification about consulting with law enforcement as opposed to the filing of a police report. Mr. Cataldy said he can talk to the Police Department but if they have procedures they need to follow, they’ll certainly follow them. He said for the District, it’s truly meant as a consult. Another Board member asked if there was anything that allows for an informal consultation. He talked about the need for flexibility and understanding on the part of law enforcement. He stated that If law enforcement says we can’t come to them informally, in his view we have to review Policy to allow for more discretion. A Board member asked if the police record is public information or if the record was protected because the child is a minor. Mr Cataldy replied that he didn’t know what the policeman meant when he said that the record was a public record.

  13. Chair Kyle Boyer said he thought
    “there needed to be some language of Policy with Police Practice,” he said he thought ithat seems to be where the disconnect seems to be because, he said, “what we’re hearing is there’s no guarantee, if we follow whatever policy we have, the Police aren’t going to some how over reach.” Mr. Cataldy stated that in his view, the Police have never, in one case, acted inappropriately.

    Mr. Cataldy and the Supt of schools then talked about how sharing information with the Police might help the Police in the future. Mr. Cataldy said that the Police might recognize that the same child who shot their b.b. gun at the neighbors dog is the same child the School is calling them about and this may help them.

    Chair Kyle Boyer said he frequently brings up this topic of how the District engages with the Police, with the Administration and others.
    He said there are populations that are particularly susceptible to over reach by law enforcement; the disability community being one, and the minority community being another group susceptible to law enforcement overreach.

    Mr. Boyer said that on his way home Sunday night he was stopped by a state trooper and let go. He still doesn’t know why he was stopped. He said because of these experiences, these things mean a lot to him deeply. He said that Mark and Rich know this because he brings it up a lot.

    The parent replied to Mr. Boyer that this isn’t an issue about law enforcement. She said that there was no need to call or involve law enforcement. The parent said that with regard to the UVA model, it recommends having a school safety officer on the team, not law enforcement. She said whether they believe it or not, the threat assessment team already met and they determined it was not a substantive threat.

    She said the officer told her that there was nothing for him to add to what the District called a consult, that all they were doing was recording the information, and she said, ——-“That Matters.” ——-She said she doesn’t want the Police to have information about anyone. She said that isn’t their role, to take information about innocent people who haven’t done anything wrong. “It is inappropriate and dangerous for our Police Department to be collecting data about our children” and she said if they can’t see that, that it’s problematic on a fundamental level. She said there already is discretion for Administrators and teachers to determine whether to escalate what they consider a threat. She asked for common sense. Her spouse spoke and said he works for a national corporation and that he writes policy for the corporation. He talked about the UVA model that the District’s Assessment Team was trained to follow. He described 5 steps the Assessment team takes. He said he didn’t understand based on the UVA model and the decision tree in the model, how the action taken was appropriate in his daughters incident. He said he would be happy to help resolve this.

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