Eighth-grader’s family files civil rights complaint over anti-Semitic comments

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CONIFER, Colo. -- An eighth-grader at West Jefferson Middle School has filed a civil rights complaint after she said the school and Jefferson County Public Schools refused to do anything about bullying.

For the past few months, Isabella Grunspan said she has been the target of anti-Semitic attacks at school.

“I constantly deal with anti-Semitism and other students saying that Hitler was a genius,” the girl told district leaders at a school board meeting last month.

Grunspan told board members that her grandmother is a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Holocaust.

“Students have said that I should be placed in the oven with the rest of the 6 million Jews or gassed like the zika virus,” she said.

She said when she told teachers and administrators about the bullying she “was told not to take it seriously and it was just middle school.”

“I feel like I have no place to be safe besides my home,” she said. “I’m scared every day. I’m sad. I feel isolated.”

Jefferson County Public Schools said it was aware of the allegations before Grunspan spoke before the board.

The district immediately launched an investigation of students and staff at West Jefferson, and some students have been disciplined. However, because of privacy laws, it can’t go into further detail.

“We’re on it because that isn’t the kind of school we want to have,” district spokeswoman Diana Wilson said. "Our kids should feel welcome. They should feel respected. They should feel safe.”

Wilson also said West Jefferson is participating in monthly student training on a variety of issues, including bullying and inclusion. Next month, the school will host an anti-bullying assembly.

“Since this appearance and outcry for help to remediate the situation for herself and others, there has been no response from the school board or any high-ranking official; not a single acknowledgement that this was a real concern or valid issue," said Bill Finger, an attorney for Grunspan's family.

Grunspan and her family have filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights.

According to Finger, an investigation will be conducted at the school and district levels to determine if anti-Semitic activity is more widespread across Jefferson County School.s

“What Isabella Grunspan wants is full and complete remediation to safeguard all students' rights now and into the future,” Finger said.