CHICAGO (STMW) — The vice president of the Chicago Board of Education said Thursday that Chicago Public Schools does not condone anti-Semitism.
It was the first time a Chicago schools official has used that term to describe an ugly incident at Ogden International School.
“CPS does not condone bullying, harmful rhetoric, intolerance or any anti-Semitic comments or behavior,” Jesse Ruiz said at a special Local School Council meeting at the school’s east campus, 24 W. Walton St.
Anti-Semitic bullying against an eighth-grader by his classmates, and the district’s response, which some parents called insufficient, caused a firestorm at the North Side school.
The 14-year-old, who is Jewish and attends the west campus for sixth to 12th grades at 1250 W. Erie, told his mother, Lisa Wolf Clemente, six months ago that kids told him to put on striped pajamas and get into an oven. Clemente said she told him to handle it himself.
But then, on May 20, she went to the principal after the teen’s 8-year-old brother was invited to an online video game called Clash of Clans; several Ogden students had teamed up as “Jew Incinerator,” calling it “a friendly group of racists with one goal — put all Jews into an army camp until disposed of.”
Ruiz told reporters he used his “own words” when he called what’s happened at the school anti-Semitism.
“My family is Jewish, so I may view it differently. I would take great offense to those words if they were directed to my sons,” Ruiz told reporters.
Clemente, who has since sought help from the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said her children didn’t feel safe at school. The school sent two letters to parents, but the first on May 23 only advised parents to talk to their children about online behavior, and the second didn’t mention anti-Semitism, said Clemente’s friend and fellow Ogden parent Jory Strosberg. An online petition is being circulated calling for the principal’s resignation.
The principal, Joshua Vanderjagt, said at Thursday’s meeting he should have met with Clemente’s son sooner. But the first-time principal defended his actions, saying they were taken with the help of CPS officials to ensure all students’ safety.
Three students were suspended for one day out of school, according to CPS, with two of them serving another day’s suspension in school by writing reflection papers and apology letters to the victim’s family.
Ruiz said the students will not participate in graduation ceremonies Saturday.
He said CPS has been revising the student code of conduct and will launch a “multifaceted campaign” to raise awareness and provide training to principals and teachers.
Ruiz also met privately with Clemente.
Clemente called that meeting “positive.” It ended with a hug.
Meanwhile, Vanderjagt said the district is organizing a meeting for all the kids involved in the ugly incident.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2014. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)