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Update: Pine Bush anti-Semitism Incident

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In the Hudson Valley, the Pine Bush Central School District and its board continue to deal with multiple issues stemming from alleged incidents of anti-Semitism.

A 2-year-old lawsuit's allegations of anti-Semitism in Pine Bush have drawn national attention.

Steve Israel is a senior writer for the Times Herald-Record, which covers Orange, Ulster and Sullivan Counties.   "Three parents in the Pine Bush school district filed a lawsuit in March 2012 alleging that there were not only incidents of anti-Semitism in the district, those incidents they said included physical and verbal abuse, and that the district essentially tolerated those incidents. The district immediately denied those allegations, contested the lawsuit. It was beginning to play out. The Times-Herald Record first wrote about it in December of 2012.”

The incident faded until November, when the New York Times gave it top story treatment. Israel says "Not only about the allegations of anti-Semitism in the lawsuit, which again are being contested, but about a history of such incidents in Pine Bush, in that region which is in Northern Orange county. And that's when it exploded nationally."

The "news" revived old tales of the Ku Klux Klan having a base in  Orange County. At some point, Governor Andrew Cuomo ran across the New York Times article, and mentioned it in his State of the State address.  1 "There was an article in the newspaper about a high school in Pine Bush, New York."

Cuomo called for a law similar to a mandated reporter's law for child abuse; the article clearly affected him.   "If a school official in the state of new York is aware of a pattern of racial or religious discrimination or harassment, that state official is under an affirmative duty to notify the state education department and the police, or that state official is no longer a state official."

Steve Israel says when Pine Bush Superintendent Joan Carbone heard about it,  she called the governor's office and explained he was treating a lawsuit as fact. She asked to meet with Cuomo, but he did not respond. She then reached out to the state education department. The Times Herald-Record published another story.  "Right after the article appeared a deputy secretary for education did call her and reached out to her, offered to chat with her and that's pretty much where it stands."

Carbone invited Cuomo to tour the district: in turn, she was invited to Albany. There is no record of either scenario having happened yet. Carbone was not available for comment. 

The United States attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York last Friday found sufficient evidence “for a jury to find that the district failed to respond to pervasive anti-Semitic harassment in its schools” by taking required action under a civil rights law.

On Thursday, the Times Herald-Record reported The Anti-Defamation League, which has been fighting anti-Semitism for a century, will meet next week with officials from the Pine Bush School District, presumably to help or advise in the expected legal battle.  The district has asked for the case to be dismissed.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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