Conifer family sues Jeffco Public Schools over handling of anti-Semitism claims

Posted 2/6/19

A former West Jefferson Middle School student and her father are suing Jeffco Public Schools over the district’s handling of the family’s anti-Semitism claims. The case, initially filed in the …

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Conifer family sues Jeffco Public Schools over handling of anti-Semitism claims

Posted

A former West Jefferson Middle School student and her father are suing Jeffco Public Schools over the district’s handling of the family’s anti-Semitism claims.

The case, initially filed in the U.S. District Court in Denver in December by Isabella Grunspan and her father, Gabriel, alleges that Isabella was discriminated against and harassed for being Jewish at West Jefferson Middle School in Conifer during 2016 and 2017. The lawsuit says the school district was indifferent toward her claims of anti-Semitism, and then retaliated against her and her father after she spoke out publicly and filed civil rights claims with the U.S. Department of Education.

The U.S. Department of Education and the education department’s Office for Civil Rights are also named in the suit.

Grunspan’s story became public in January 2017, when she detailed these experiences at a school board meeting, explaining that West Jefferson Middle students have targeted her daily for being Jewish and standing up for other minorities.

“I constantly deal with anti-Semitism, with other students saying that Hitler was a genius,” Grunspan told the board in January 2017 at a public meeting.

She added that students would make anti-Semitic and racial slurs “almost daily.”

“When I told other students it was not a joke and went to the administration, I was told not to take it seriously and that it was just ‘middle school,’” she said.

The family filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in 2016 related to the alleged anti-Semitic activity occurring at the school.

The Office for Civil Rights’ report, issued in August 2017, concluded that “the anti-Semitic harassment was persistent, pervasive and severe, and thus, that a hostile environment existed at the school,” according to the family’s lawsuit.

However, the report stated, “there was insufficient evidence to conclude that the district discriminated as alleged,” the lawsuit said.

The Grunspans allege in the lawsuit that West Jefferson’s principal attacked Isabella’s character, causing her to leave the middle school and enroll in private school in Denver.

Diana Wilson, a spokeswoman for the school district, said the district could not comment on the open case, but provided Colorado Community Media with a list of steps taken by the school district in an attempt to resolve the situation.

The family is seeking monetary damages, punitive damages and attorney fee reimbursement among other things.

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