8th Graders Banned From Graduation Over Anti-Semitic Bullying

Victim's mother confronts Local School Council

Three students accused of bullying a Jewish classmate are being barred from their eighth-grade graduation at their North Side school.

A 14-year-old Jewish student at Ogden International School says the bullying started earlier in the school year and involved an online game where the students called themselves the “Jew Incinerator.”

The boy's mother, Lisa Clemente, told the local school council Thursday that her complaints to school principal Joshua Vanderjagt had fallen on deaf ears for several months.

"You're all here because I did Mr. Vanderjagt's job," Clemente told the council.

"My son was bullied. There was anti-Semitism," Clemente later told reporters. "It's not brain surgery. You go, you call the parents, they get suspended, they don't walk in the graduation."

The vice president of the Chicago Board of Education, Jesse Ruiz, attended Thursday's meeting and announced the students' ban from graduation. The students were also suspended for a day and forced to write letters of apology.

"The district wants to send a clear message that these actions will not be tolerated at Ogden or any other school," Ruiz said at the school meeting. "We'll use this ugly incident -- and it was ugly -- for helpful dialogue."

Ruiz said the board will also revise the student code of conduct and launch a cultural awareness campaign as well as district-wide sensitivity education and training. It will also begin training the principal immediately, as well as institute other measures.

Clemente seemed satisfied with the district's response, but made it clear that the problem is still not solved. She believes what happened was actually a hate crime.

"I can't forgive until we acknowledge; then we move on. It has to be acknowledged, and he has to understand he didn't do the right things," Clemente said.

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