CPS Investigates Claims of Anti-Semitic Bullying

Several students were suspended, officials said

Chicago Public Schools officials are investigating claims of anti-Semitic bullying at Ogden International School.

School officials said they were notified of the bullying incident involving an eighth grade student last week and have since suspended several students.

According to a family friend and fellow Ogden parent Jory Strosberg, several students were bullying their Jewish classmate with offensive behavior and even played an online game where they called themselves the “Jew Incinerator.”

"They showed him pictures of ovens, saying 'Get in the oven. Go into the shower, you're only half human,'" Strosberg said.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported the students signed up for an online game of Clash of Clans as the “Jew Incinerator,” writing “Heil! Throw Jews into ovens for a cause” and “We are a friendly group of racists with one goal—put all Jews into an army camp until disposed of. Sieg! Heil!”

The school hosted a parent forum at the west campus at 4:30 p.m. Thursday to “talk through the issue and allow [parents] to ask questions about the school’s response.”

Officials planned to distribute anti-bullying literature at the forum.

“Chicago Public Schools will never tolerate bullying or harassment by any student in any school,” CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in a statement Thursday. “As a district we are committed to ensuring sage school environments in which every child feels secure, comfortable, and respected. The principal at Ogden International High School 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.”

The principal also sent home two letters to parents informing them of the incident and included messages to monitor the online video games their children play.

The students’ suspensions varied in length, but as of Thursday, they were back in school and many attended a scheduled school field trip to the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, officials said.

Some parents said the problem is much more than bullying, and argued the punishment was not enough.

"When we walked in, we were given literature on bullying, but it was really a hate crime," said parent Lauri Akers. "More needs to be done with the students involved."

"It can't stop here," said parent Lisa Zyhylaj.

One student, who attended the school last year, says the bullying problem is not new for the school and claims he had a similar issue during his time there.

"There were people starting gangs-- one called 'the race card,'" said 15-year-old Eric Ligas.

CPS’ Social Emotional Learning Department is involved and working with the Anti-Defamation League to provide support to the school and parents, officials said.

"Children aren't born to hate," said parent Jill Gould. "They're born innocent. They learn this behavior."

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