Parents of a student filed a lawsuit against the school earlier this week alleging that officials did not do enough to stop anti-Semitic bullying against their son after it was reported.
On Tuesday evening, the Northport BOE officially retained attorney Adam Kleinberg, of Sokoloff Stern to defend Superintendent Marylou McDermott and Northport High School Principal Irene McLaughlin in a civil action suit filed by Manhattan attorney Chaim Book on behalf of East Northport parent Robert Slade and his son.
The complaint alleges "severe, persistent, and violent harassment" that the former ninth grader endured between November 2010 and June 2011, consisting of "some of the most hate-filled, anti-Semitic slurs imaginable."
"We vehemently deny the allegations of the complaint," Kleinberg said on Thursday afternoon. "We intend to litigate this with all the seriousness it deserves. The school officials acted appropriately at the time and will continue to act appropriately."
According to the suit, the boy was subjected to routine anti-Semitic insults by up to as many as 15-20 students. In addition to verbal taunting, the students also posted anti-Semitic slurs on Facebook.
In January 2011, the student wrote an essay for his English class entitled "Anti-Semitism" in which he stated that he loves being Jewish but that "it gets lonely in school." According to the suit, he recounted two incidents he had experienced and concluded "Anti-Semitism does exsist (sic) in Northport, (and) I'm a Key victim."
According to the complaint, the teacher never contacted the parents about the essay's contents, and school officials took no action.
In May 2011, after the parents became aware of the full extent of the bullying, they gave a list of the anti-Semitic jokes to McDermott and McLaughlin, who said they would deliver a message regarding tolerance and instruct Social Studies teachers to discuss the issue in class. The plaintiff does not believe those actions ever took place.
Two weeks later, McLaughlin and a social worker met with the student. McLaughlin allegedly told him "that he should consider what the bullies were going through at home, but offered no further assistance."
In June the student was allegedly physically harassed by two students, which was witnessed by a teacher who reprimanded the students but took no action. The student returned to the same teacher the next day and was told that the incident would be reported to the assistant principal. According to the complaint, neither the parents or their son was contacted after that.
The anti-Semitic slurs also allegedly took place during track practice and were reported to McLaughlin by the social worker. According to the complaint, no action was taken to address the situation.
During the summer, the names of the individual students who had been harassing the ninth grader were provided to school district officials. No action was taken, even though Board of Education Policy 5300, titled Public Conduct on School Property, states, "No person, either alone or with others, shall: (5) intimidate, harass, or discriminate against any person on the basis of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation or disability." Under that policy, "the district shall initiate disciplinary action against any student or staff member, as appropriate."
In the Fall of 2011, the parents enrolled their son in a private school.
The plaintiff has requested a trial by jury seeking the following: A declaration that the defendants violated his son's rights under the Fourteenth Amendment; compensatory and punitive damages for violation of state, civil, and human rights laws; the remedying of the situation by the school district, and attorney's fees and costs associated with the litigation.
Book said, "We believe that our client was harassed and seriously mistreated by many students at Northport High School because of his religion and that the school and school district officials were deliberately indifferent to the harassment despite being put on notice about the harassment. The school and school district did not fulfill their duties to provide a safe school environment that is free of illegal discrimination, and we plan to vigorously pursue our client's rights in this matter."
Patch reached Anita Slade on Friday, though she declined comment.
Northport Patch will continue to follow this story.