update deskSchools & Higher Education

NJ school ‘at best careless’ in missing photos of Jewish students, review finds

The oversight by East Brunswick Public Schools was a “highly unfortunate error,” according to the attorney Yaacov Brisman.

Students head home after classes at East Brunswick High School in East Brunswick, N.J., Feb. 22, 2018. Photo by Dominick Reuter/AFP via Getty Images.
Students head home after classes at East Brunswick High School in East Brunswick, N.J., Feb. 22, 2018. Photo by Dominick Reuter/AFP via Getty Images.

The omission of a photo of the Jewish Student Union in a yearbook at East Brunswick High School in New Jersey was “not purposeful, but rather was a highly unfortunate error,” an independent review of the incident concludes.

The review, conducted by Yaacov Brisman, who runs an eponymous law firm, found no basis that the yearbook adviser “acted out of any animus, racial, religious or political, towards Jewish or Muslim students.”

Victor Valeski, superintendent of schools for East Brunswick, previously told CNN that “an initial internal investigation” found “at a minimum, gross [negligence] in the proof review procedure before going to print.”

Instead of the photograph of Jewish students, images of Muslim students ran in the yearbook in a section devoted to the Jewish Student Union.

“I find that the lead adviser was at best careless, but her actions can also be considered negligent,” Brisman found. (The adviser was not named.) 

“She should have exercised greater attention to detail when selecting the photograph. She admittedly only ‘assumed’ it was the correct photograph,” he wrote in the report. “The photograph clearly has a number of students who are identifiably Muslim. Even accounting for diversity among students, this should have triggered greater awareness.

“Moreover, as an experienced educator, in light of domestic and international events,” Brisman added, the adviser “should have had a heightened sense of awareness and sensitivity surrounding students of Jewish ethnicity and/or faith.”

“This sensitivity also holds true for students of the Muslim faith, who were clearly identifiable by their dress and who were also mislabeled,” he wrote.

Brisman told JNS, “I will rely on the contents of the report rather than making additional comments.”

Valeski stated, “While I’m grateful that the results of this investigation show that these actions were serious mistakes without malice, we must now focus on repairing the deep hurt and division that has been created in our school and community.”

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