A federal judge approved a $4.5 million settlement between an upstate New York school district and five Jewish students who say they endured years of abuse by classmates who made Holocaust jokes toward them and drew swastikas in hallways and lockers.
One of the five current and former students who testified at a hearing Thursday when the settlement was approved held back sobs as she described becoming suicidal after repeated acts of anti-Semitic bullying.
"I will never be able to get those years of my childhood back," the 17-year-old said, according to the New York Times. "I used to be an outgoing kid who wasn't afraid to talk to people and make new friends."
The lawsuit accused Pine Bush Central School District officials of failing to take action to protect the students from anti-Semitic bullying for years. The students said they were subjected to racial epithets, Nazi salutes and other forms of intimidation.
As part of the settlement, the district must conduct mandatory training for faculty and staff on recognizing anti-Semitic harassment. It must also implement an anti-bullying curriculum.
The students will receive two-thirds of the payout. The rest will go to attorney's fees.
The district, in a rural area about 90 miles north of New York City, has indicated it will sue its insurer, which denied coverage for the case.
"Anti-Semitic harassment is wrong," the school district and plaintiffs said in a joint statement posted on the Pine Bush website after the settlement was announced last month. "The district will never condone anti-Semitic slurs or graffiti, Holocaust 'jokes' or physical violence. No family should have to experience the hurt and pain that bullying and name-calling can cause children to endure because of their religious, national or cultural identity."