By Kay Johnson
A six-month investigation into a religious discrimination complaint filed against Terry School District has found reasonable cause to believe unlawful discrimination occurred.
Shawn Springer filed the complaint September 21 of last year with the Montana Human Rights Bureau on behalf of her son, who was enrolled as a student at Terry High School.
The Springer family has since moved from the area. According to documents filed, the move was precipitated by the discriminatory acts, including one instance of vandalism that allegedly occurred to the son’s car.
The 14-page investigative report concluded March 20. If the matter is not resolved between the parties, it will go before a hearing examiner of the bureau, generally within a 12-month period.
Springer alleges her son was discriminated against because of his Christian-Jew religion. She alleges that her son was called “Jew-boy” by other students. The allegations include one instance alleging a classmate called her son a “kike” in front of a teacher who allegedly didn’t’ say anything but instead left the room. The allegations also include comments that were made about the student’s shoulder tattoo, with one student remarking, “You have a Jew-star on your shoulder.”
Another instance claims that during individual football pictures a teammate of the student said, “You’re not really going to wear that are you?” referring to a necklace worn by Springer’s son that included the cross and Star of David. The photographer, who was a teacher, allegedly heard the comment, but didn’t say or do anything.
The complaint also alleges that although the harassing behavior was brought to Superintendent Casey Klasna, nothing was done about it.
The complaint alleges that Springer’s son was cut from the starting line-up of the football team in retaliation for Springer complaining about the harassment.
The Terry School District denies the charges.
“We felt the report was done in error,” said Superintendent Casey Klasna, pointing to the fact that not all of those listed in the complaint were interviewed during the bureau’s investigation.
The school district contends many of the instances within the complaint were not reported to the district. It also denies that any teacher heard discriminatory comments being made towards the student.
The school denies that the student was cut from the football’s starting line up, reporting that the student wasn’t on the regular starting line up.
In regards to the ‘kike’ comment, the school reported that the teacher involved remembers one instance when a student asked what the word meant. The teacher explained that it was a derogatory term for a Jewish person and is inappropriate and offensive. Since that time, the teacher hasn’t heard the word being used.
“I’m going to stand behind this (the school) 100 percent,” Klasna said. “We did nothing wrong.”
Published May 8, 2013