A Jewish middle school teacher in Massachusetts has resigned after facing antisemitic harassment by a 12-year-old student – who allegedly made Nazi jokes and sent him a drawing of Adolf Hitler.
Morrison Robblee, 25, who taught social studies at Nessacus Regional Middle School in Dalton, told the Berkshire Eagle that the sixth-grader began making the comments after the teacher let his students know he is Jewish in February.
The child is now facing a misdemeanor charge of criminal harassment.
When Robblee tried to quiet his students one day, the boy began spewing homophobic slurs, so the teacher removed him from class, Insider reported.
School officials later held a “restorative circle,” in which the student, Robblee and an administrator reflected on the incident.
“The student didn’t actually say anything during the meeting,” Robblee told Insider. “That probably should have cued me that this was not going to end.”
In April, things took a turn for the worse after the teacher showed up in class wearing a yarmulke, a skullcap worn by observant Jews, for Passover – prompting the student to make hateful comments about it, according to the news outlet.
A few days after being sent to detention, Robblee said the boy gave him sketch of Hitler standing over a dead person labeled “Jew,” surrounded by swastikas and canisters labeled “gas.”
News outlet Insider said it has viewed the sickening drawing, which also featured the words “Sorry Jew,” in what the student said was an apology letter.
“He really wanted to get his point home,” Robblee told the outlet about the student, who was eventually suspended and removed from the teacher’s class.
But he told Insider that the harassment continued in the hallways and that the boy made jokes about the Holocaust, including gas chambers. He said the student also emailed him insults about his teaching.
The boy, who has not been named because of his age, faces a misdemeanor charge of criminal harassment.
Robblee said he filed a complaint with his union in May, citing an unsafe work environment, and told the Central Berkshire Regional School District in a letter that the boy would “further be at risk of a deeper radicalization of hate, one which will lead to violence,” the Eagle reported.
“I am not bothered by the ignorant comments of a child,” Robblee reportedly wrote in a statement to be read at a meeting to end the boy’s suspension. “I am bothered that, without proper intervention, this hate will continue to fester.”
The district later placed Robblee on administrative leave, citing the student’s allegations that the teacher made a face at him in a hallway, according to The Eagle.
Robblee told Insider that he stuck his tongue out at the student in a moment of frustration after the boy swore at him.
The teacher also was accused of speaking about the student in front of other children, but he denies that allegation, the paper reported.
He said he decided to quit because he didn’t feel like administrators took his concerns seriously.“I take the keys out of my pocket, slide ’em across the table, and say, ‘There’s absolutely no way I am coming back to work in your school,’” Robblee told The Eagle.
Schools Superintendent Leslie Blake-Davis declined to discuss the incidents for confidentiality reasons, according to the outlet.
But she said the district handles incidents of hate or bias by first removing a student from a classroom for a due process probe while educational services are still provided.
The district then either introduces “accountable consequences,” such as detention or suspensions, or “restorative interventions,” such as anti-bias training, Blake-Davis told The Eagle.
If action is taken, parents are notified and the district will contact law enforcement if necessary, she added.
Blake-Davis said the district also seeks to introduce the No Place For Hate Club, a student-led initiative at Wahconah Regional High School, in the middle school.“One of the things we found as a district that’s really empowering is to make sure we’re involving student voice and student leadership in this work that we do,” she said.
The Dalton Police Department filed the charge against the student in Pittsfield Juvenile Court, where pending a show-cause hearing, the court clerk will determine whether the case should move forward.
The Berkshire District Attorney’s Office said in a statement to The Eagle that it was working with the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Federation of the Berkshires to determine how to prevent similar incidents in the future.
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