Top state officials responded publicly and with distress today to a New York Times article detailing anti-Semitic incidents in the Pine Bush school district.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the State Police and Division of Human Rights would investigate the allegations. He also wrote to State Education Commissioner John King asking for a full accounting of whether the state knew about the allegations and, if it did, what it had done — but the education department said the allegations were new to it, as well.
The article describes a lawsuit against the tiny upstate district by several families who say anti-Semitic speech and actions by some students were brushed off by school officials. The district’s Jewish superintendent until this summer, a transplant from New York City’s schools, said he did not think he could change “years of inbred hatred” among local students and questioned why Jewish families would move to an area with so much anti-Semitism.
"The alleged behavior is nothing that should ever be tolerated in our schools," Cuomo wrote in his letter to King. He added, "I fully expect the State Department of Education to be forthcoming to parents across New York State regarding the Department’s knowledge of these reprehensible acts and what, if any, steps have been taken to ensure Pine Bush students of Jewish origin can attend their school without being subject to anti-Semitic attacks.”
King’s office responded quickly. A top deputy, Elizabeth Berlin, wrote to Cuomo’s education secretary, De’Shawn Wright, to say that the entire department was “personally repulsed” by the report and would assist with the investigation.
Berlin also said King had directed the department to work with the New York Center for School Safety and the regional superintendent “to determine an immediate course of action to protect students.”
The incidents in the Pine Bush school district, if true, are repulsive, that's for sure.
But Sheriff Andy Cuomo has an interesting reaction to the NY Times story.
He goes after John King and SED.
He wants to know if anybody at SED had any knowledge of these incidents and demands to know if any steps have been taken to put a stop to them.
Now I don't doubt that Cuomo wants to put a stop to this story right now.
That means getting to the bottom of the allegations and making sure the incidents stop.
I mean, rampant anti-Semitic bigotry in the Pine Bush school district would put a crimp in his re-election campaign next year, not to mention his 2016 White House dreams, and Sheriff Andy cannot abide that.
So he clearly wants something done about it.
But I find the tone of the letter he sent to John King interesting.
This is not the kind of letter a politician sends to a friendly functionary that is meant to signal to the public governing officials are on top of things, don't you worry.
Rather, this is the kind of letter a politician sends to a functionary he wants to scapegoat for stuff after a paper trail has been created.
Would Cuomo have sent a letter with such a tone to King pre-Poughkeepsie?
Does the tone of this letter signal Cuomo has had enough of NYSED Commissioner King and his SED modules and is looking to use the Pine Bush school district anti-Semitism charges as a reason to dump him?