A former New Jersey high school student filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday claiming that she was subjected to "endemic anti-Semitism" at her public magnet high school.
The plaintiff — identified as "P.W." in her U.S. District Court civil complaint against the Monmouth County Vocational School District, the school board and four educators — said she suffered for years at the Marine Academy of Science and Technology.
P.W., who enrolled as a freshman in fall 2015, said that during a school field trip in April 2018, a schoolmate texted 17 other pupils, including the plaintiff, a picture of another student "proudly lying on the beach next to the larger-than-life-sized words 'I h8 Jews' etched in the sand," according to the lawsuit.
"P.W., who is Jewish, felt that she was a target of this shocking anti-Semitism, which hurt her deeply," the suit says.
The principal, who is named as a defendant, learned of the troubling text message and then "effectively communicated to the students who were involved in the incident that PW. had been the one who turned them in (it was her parents, actually)," according to the civil complaint.
The two students involved in the "I h8 Jews" text received short suspensions before "they and their friends retaliated against P.W. severely, engaging in a large-scale and explicitly coordinated campaign of retribution against P.W. to punish her for 'snitching,' " the lawsuit says. "Overnight, P.W. went from being a happy, successful and well-liked student to a pariah."
During her sophomore year, P.W. observed several students reading "Mein Kampf" during their mandatory read period, even though the 10th-grade curriculum included no classes on to World War II or Nazi Germany "that would make it appropriate" for a student to be reading the book by Hitler, the suit says.
Students and "at least one teacher" openly celebrated Hitler on campus and someone once placed a rock near P.W.'s desk "with the word 'adolf' painted on it," the lawsuit said.
Also on numerous occasions P.W. saw students draw images of swastikas on notebooks and school lunch tables, which was "a common practice" during the lunch hour, according to the complaint.
All the while, school officials did not act, according to the lawsuit.
The school district responded to the lawsuit in a statement, saying, "The District takes every reported allegation of bias, harassment, intimidation and bullying seriously and promptly investigates reported incidents."
"More importantly, the Monmouth County Vocational School District is committed to providing a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students that is free from harassment, intimidation and bullying and all forms of bias and discrimination," the statement says.
P.W. left the school after her junior year and enrolled at Brookdale Community College as a dual status student. Leaving Marine Academy of Science and Technology damaged her chances of getting into the University of Pennsylvania, Emory University, Northwestern University and the University of Virginia, her lawyers said.
She was not accepted by any of those elite schools, and P.W. now attends college at an undisclosed school outside of New Jersey, according to the lawsuit. The civil action does not name a dollar figure that plaintiffs seek.
CORRECTION (March 6, 2020, 10:13 a.m. ET) A previous version of this article misstated that the plaintiff in the lawsuit earned her high school diploma from the Marine Academy of Science and Technology. She left the academy in her junior year and did not not receive a diploma from the school.