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Berkeley Unified facing lawsuit over alleged harassment of Jewish students

The Berkeley Unified School District is facing a new civil rights complaint alleging it ignored “severe and persistent” harassment of Jewish students. The complaint includes accusations involving both students and teachers. 

Since the Hamas attacks on Israel in October, dozens of jewish students at Berkeley Unified have complained of antisemitism in the classroom.  

Ilana Pearlman said she pulled her ninth grade son out of his Berkeley High School art class because of his teachers actions.

“His art teacher was showing antisemitic images in class, along with telling the children that Israel had just murdered a bunch of civilians and that they all needed to go to a walkout against genocide,” said Pearlman. 

She said it’s all taking a major toll on her son.

“Going from being somebody who used to go to weekly Jewish events with other Jewish teens, to not showing an interest,” said Pearlman. “That’s one of the ways it has manifested. Other ways it’s manifested are in censoring his Jewishness from his ancestry project.”

She said she began tracking complaints and racked up more than 57 from other parents in the last few months. She also claims her complaints to the principal, school board and superintendent fell on deaf ears. 

In a statement the district superintendent said Berkeley Unified stands against all forms of hate. 

“The district continuously encourages students and families to report any incidents of bullying or hate, motivated behavior and vigorously investigates each and every report,” said Superintendent Enikia Ford Morthel.

Now, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law has filed a federal civil rights complaint against the district.

They say that complaint is based on reports of antisemitism from more than 100 students and parents.

“Certain things that children were saying that were really bad for Jews. Like ‘killing the Jews’ and things like this,” said Pearlman.

She said the goal of the complaint is to ensure the district enforces its existing policies. She said the attacks have gotten so bad, that some Jewish students are afraid to go to school or speak up.

“This is for those kids who won’t tell us what’s going on,” said Pearlman.

Source: NBC Bay Area

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