Anti-Semitic Bullying Allegations at Ogden School Raise Parents' Ire
STREETERVILLE — A woman who said her eighth-grade son was the target of anti-Semitic bullying at Ogden International School criticized the school for "pushing it under the carpet," while CPS maintains the principal quickly acted to investigate.
Parent Lisa Wolf Clemente said her 14-year-old son, who attends Ogden's West Town campus at 1250 W. Erie St., was bullied during lunch and Spanish class by students who showed him pictures of ovens and told him to get in, the Sun-Times reported last week.
The Gold Coast resident, whose family is Jewish, said the abuse began in late fall, and she initially told him to "turn the other cheek."
But she had enough about May 20 when her 8-year-old son, who attends Ogden's Streeterville Campus, was invited to join a team called "Jew Incinerator" on the popular game app Clash of Clans, she said. The team was allegedly created by Ogden eighth-graders.
In a screenshot provided by parents, the team description reads: "We are a friendly group of racists with one goal — put all Jews into an army camp until disposed of. Sieg! Heil!"
Clemente talked to the parents of the accused kids before telling Principal Joshua VanderJagt that day, she said. Soon after, VanderJagt started investigating, according to a statement from CPS.
Three eighth-grade students received one day of out-of-school suspension and one day of in-school suspension, while others were given one day's suspension, CPS spokesman Joel Hood said outside the school Monday night. The students have returned to classes.
At a parent forum Monday night, the second since bullying allegations surfaced, reporters were prevented from entering the meeting at Ogden's east campus, 24 W. Walton St.
Some parents who attended said they felt Ogden didn't do enough to deter the bullies.
"They have an opportunity right now to punish the kids that did this," parent Adam Schwartz said. "To send a message to the other kids that, 'Hey, this is not OK, this will not be tolerated, and if you do things like this there’s going to be consequences.'"
He called much of what heard during the meeting Monday "rhetoric" and said there wasn't enough discussion about the incident.
Parents at Ogden along with neighbors have organized around the issue, including forming a Facebook group to hold their own discussions and handing out leaflets to community members outside Monday's meeting.
According to a fact sheet from CPS, the principal has been working with the Anti-Defamation League to potentially develop a program for middle school students to learn the history of anti-Semitism. The school district is also working with Ogden to focus on behavior and social skills.
According to Rachel Kruer, a spokeswoman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a statement from the mayor read during the meeting said:
"There is no room in our schools for bullying, discrimination, hateful speech or bigotry of any kind, whether it’s based on an individual’s religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation," the statement reads. "We all have a responsibility to ensure Chicago is a welcoming and tolerant city for our students and residents of all backgrounds."
Last week, CPS boss Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in an emailed statement that the principal "has worked in cooperation with the network and central office to foster a larger community dialog around cultural sensitivity and has taken the appropriate actions to ensure this is a teachable moment for our children.”
But Clemente said her 14-year-old son continued to receive verbal taunts at school. She also said a third son, who is a fifth-grader at Ogden, was punched by a student on Thursday, though she didn't know what prompted the attack.
She also said she thought VanderJagt should have swiftly addressed what happened as anti-Semitic and wished he did more to mediate the bullying.
"Had he brought us all together or did something to maybe rectify the situation it wouldn’t have gotten this out of hand," she said. "He kept on shoving it off and pushing it under the carpet and hiding it."
But Clemente said she thought more was done by CPS officials Monday to acknowledge that her son was targeted for being Jewish, which made her feel "a little bit better."
"I don't want to be angry," she said. "I want to move on."
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