For months a 14-year-old Jewish boy enrolled at The Ogden International School of Chicago had been subjected to anti-Semitic taunts by his classmates. According to local parent Jory Rozner Strosberg the vicious mocking included “Sending him pics of ovens, calling him half human, telling him to get in striped pjs and get in the oven…..”
The boy’s mother, Lisa Wolf Clemente, encouraged her son to take the higher road. “I taught my son how to handle this situation himself,” said Clemente. But things became unbearable two weeks ago when her 8-year-old son was invited to join eighth-grade students in the online game Clash of Clans with the team name “Jew Incinerator”.
As reported in the Chicago Sun Times:
Besides calling their team “Jew Incinerator,” they had written: “Heil! Throw Jews into ovens for a cause,” Clemente said. They also wrote: “We are a friendly group of racists with one goal — put all Jews into an army camp until disposed of.” Screenshots of the game shot showed the students concluded with “Sieg! Heil!” — a Nazi salutation.
No longer able to keep the harassment of her sons to herself, Clemente approached an Ogden teacher for help and was promptly ignored. Clemente reached a breaking point when she texted her friend Strosberg on May 23 “I’m distraught! I need your help… This has been going on at our west campus for months….. I told teacher, and parents with no luck… This is happening and it’s not going away. It started with 3 boys they invited other in this game and are now 13 strong. Scary! Please help me to end this…”
Using social media Strosberg and Clemente were able to get the attention of CBS News Chicago which reported the incident. A few days later Ogden Principal Joshua D. VanderJagt wrote in response to a letter by Strosberg and 11 others:
I would like to do this later in the week as I am continuing other parts of the investigation tomorrow morning and meeting with school faculty to create an in-class response plan. I’m also looking to hold a parent forum mid-week to assure parents that these type of actions are completely unacceptable and that this will never happen again. This has also impacted the Jewish community in a deep way and I want to assure them that Ogden is not, and will never be, a place in which anti-semitic sentiment is tolerated as simple bullying.
While VanderJagt was willing to call the event for what it was, anti-Semitism, in a Thursday meeting between parents and Chicago Public Schools officials the Safety Director refused to use the label “anti-Semitic” because of “privacy” concerns. Clemente was upset that CPS would not address the issue head-on. “Call it its name. They were racist, they were being anti-Semitic to my son,” Clemente said Thursday afternoon.
After completing the investigation VanderJagt used his “principal discretion” to give each of the ringleaders a one day suspension that was served this week. According to a post on Strosberg’s Facebook page by CPS teacher Jennifer Chams, the punishment seemed unusually light considering the circumstances:
As per CPS conduct code, even if it was “just bullying” the boys would have had 3-5 day suspensions …with social worker groups upon returning to school … But the fact that it’s a hate crime, they would have had a hearing to determine suspension … There is also another category of cyber bulling punishment on top of the hate crimes.
Giving soon to be adult children a slap on the wrist for a months-long hate campaign against a fellow student, and exercising what can only be described as colossally stupid judgment in taking their hatred to an online forum, is clearly insufficient. While these are children and I would never consider them irredeemable at such a young age, it is the responsibility of the adults to make sure that not only do they understand what they did was wrong, but when you make bad decisions in life there are consequences. Ignoring CPS standards by cutting their suspension down to as little as possible does not send this message.