July 1, 2004
Jew Jokes Not a Joke
Conejo Valley teen sues school district over anti-Semitic harassment.
A Jewish teenager in Ventura County has filed a federal lawsuit against the Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD), alleging that his high school coach and teammates repeatedly made anti-Semitic remarks to him and that school officials were indifferent to his complaints.
In U.S. District Court papers filed May 26 in Los Angeles on behalf of Samuel Goldstein, 16, the former Newbury Park High School (NPHS) student alleges that for the past two school years his teammates made repeated anti-Semitic jokes and taunts around him.
The lawsuit states that teammates made jokes to Goldstein such as, "What's the difference between a Jew and a canoe? A canoe tips," and, "How do you fit 500,000 Jews in a car? Two in front, three in the back, and the rest in the ashtray."
The lawsuit also states that Newbury Park High baseball and football coach John Marsden in March 2003 allegedly, "told Sam that 'God didn't like him, because he was a Jew.'"
At a January 2003 birthday party with other athletes, Goldstein had to endure a "concentration camp" game in which, the lawsuit alleges, "his teammates from baseball and football pressed him against a fence and told jokes about how, unlike pizza, Jews scream when placed in an oven."
"In or about June 2003, Sam saw a group of students on the school campus saluting Hitler and drawing swastikas," the lawsuit said. "Altercations between this group and other students resulted."
Last fall, the Anti-Defamation League wrote to and met with the high school's principal. "In meetings with NPHS, the ADL offered to arrange for Holocaust survivors to speak at a school assembly," the lawsuit stated. "NPHS rejected the offer on the asserted basis that the students' curriculum was already too full."
ADL Pacific Southwest Region spokeswoman Allison Mayerson confirmed this week the ADL's involvement, but told The Journal that there would no further ADL comment since the incidents now involve litigation.
After he complained to school officials about Marsden, Goldstein alleges that his teammates called him "kike," "faggot Jew" and "dirty Jew," according to the lawsuit, which names the school district and Marsden as defendants. It claims the defendants violated Goldstein's civil rights, were negligent and intentionally inflicted emotional duress.
Along with seeking an end to further harassment, the lawsuit asks the federal court "to require defendant CVUSD to implement religious tolerance education for faculty and students and a civil penalty of $25,000 and attorneys fees."
Goldstein had played on the school's basketball, football and baseball teams, but he quit the baseball team in February. His parents have taken him and his younger brother out of the school district and moved. The high school is in an unincorporated part of Thousand Oaks.
Conejo Valley School District Superintendent Robert Fraisse did not return calls for comment, and the district has declined to discuss the case's specifics, because it involves personnel matters.
Marsden had been a part-time baseball and football coach at the high school since 1987. He was not involved in teaching classes. His last day at the school was Jan. 22, according to a school district official.
Asked if Marsden would be returning this fall, the official said, "I don't believe so."
In April 2003, the lawsuit states, the coach asked Jewish students on the basketball team who would not be at practice because of Passover. Although Goldstein arranged to attend practice and also observe the holiday, another Jewish player did not, and the coach allegedly stated, "Next year, I won't have to worry about the boys missing practice, as I'll cut all the Jewish players from the team."
The lawsuit filed by Goldstein's parents claims that for two years, his mother and father repeatedly contacted school district officials about Marsden.
"Sam and/or his parents wrote letters to, sent e-mails to, made telephone calls to, and/or had in-person meetings with CVUSD personnel," the lawsuit states. "Despite its knowledge of the facts, CVUSD did little or nothing to remedy the discrimination experienced by Sam."
The lawsuit claims that Goldstein was a leadoff hitter and played first-string outfield on the baseball team, plus was a first-string defensive player in football. In spring 2003, the lawsuit states, Goldstein's mother met with Marsden, who allegedly, "retaliated against Sam by benching him for most of the remaining baseball season.... Marsden then proceeded to tease Sam in front of his peers about the fact that Sam's mother came to speak to him."