SWC Commends New York Governor Cuomo for Proposing Law Amendment to Protect Students Against Discrimination and Harassment at State of the State Address

January 9, 2014

New York, NY—The Simon Wiesenthal Center applauded Governor Andrew M. Cuomo (pictured) for his continued leadership against religious and racial discrimination. In light of recent incidents in the Pine Bush Central School District (that landed the school district on the Wiesenthal Center’s Top 10 List of Anti-Israel/Anti-Semitic Slurs, Governor Cuomo unveiled a proposed law amendment that would protect students against discrimination and harassment, at his State of the State Address.

On November 7, 2013 when the New York Times ran a front page article about Jewish students in the Pine Bush Central School District being targeted with anti-Semitic slurs and physical abuse by bullies, Governor Cuomo immediately took initiative and ordered an investigation into these claims. The governor has since learned that the school was taken to court a year before the Times article was published, yet not a single educator associated with the school alerted the proper law enforcement officials.

In light of these findings, Governor Cuomo proposed, “If a school official in the State of New York is aware of a pattern of racial or religious discrimination or harassment, that State official is under an affirmative duty to notify the State Education Department and the police or that state official is no longer a state official.”

Schools will also be required to implement SED-constructed plans to remedy these injustices. The Simon Wiesenthal Center strongly supports this proposed legislation and urges all members of the legislature to support this amendment when it comes before the Senate and the Assembly.

Rabbi Steven Burg, the Wiesenthal Center’s Eastern Director, who attended yesterday’s 'State of the State Address', remarked: “It takes real leadership to stand up against these issues. By announcing these proposed law amendments at the State of the State Address, the governor has made his zero tolerance policy a priority for the State of New York and for that, the Simon Wiesenthal Center is greatly indebted.

Today, listening to Governor Cuomo’s address, we experienced real greatness.” As far as New York students go, Burg stated: “In the 21st century, there should not be any student who needs to fear they will be harassed or tormented at school because of their race or religion. The state of New York has come too far for such behavior to continue. It’s time that our most vulnerable are protected and the first line of protection must come from our teachers and administrators.”

Governor Cuomo received the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Distinguished Service Award at their annual Humanitarian Award Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria on October 16, 2013, in recognition of his continued efforts to end anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry in all of its forms.

For more information and for questions, please contact Rabbi Steven Burg, Eastern Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center at sburg@wiesenthal.com or 646-201-8350, join the Center on Facebook, www.facebook.com/simonwiesenthalcenter, or follow @simonwiesenthal for news updates sent direct to your Twitter page or mobile device.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).

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