Parents drop discrimination lawsuit with student newspaper connection

The parents of a former middle school student have dropped a discrimination lawsuit that was based in part on the family's objections to a student newspaper column.

Caroline Lineen, attorney for Mahopac Central School District, said that the plaintiffs, the parents of then-middle school student “H.B.”, suddenly chose to withdraw the complaint without explanation. Lineen declined to comment further on any other aspect of the case.

Giulia Frasca, attorney for the plaintiffs, was unable to respond to requests for comment by press time pending permission from her client.

The complaint alleged that students and teachers at Mahopac Central School District engaged in “anti-Semitism and racial, religious and gender discrimination, by both verbal and physical threats and abuse,” with the “knowledge and tacit approval” of school principals and the school board for several years. Included in the complaint was a newspaper article published in the high school newspaper that H.B.’s parents found objectionable and claim should have been censored under the authority granted to schools by the Supreme Court in Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier. In the column, a student referenced one college's large Jewish population as a factor in deciding against that college.

The school district argued in a Feb. 7 brief that despite any anti-Semitic behavior by students at the school, the district was not complicit with such behavior and that its responses to H.B. and her parents’ complaints were reasonable. They also claimed that the case could not continue as a class action suit on behalf of the school’s Jewish students because the plaintiffs did not “identify any such students with similar claims.”

Lineen said that no settlement was reached when the case was dropped. The parties agreed not to seek any court costs stemming from the lawsuit.

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