Feds join investigation of Pine Bush anti-Semitism allegations

Preet Bharara. (AP)
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ALBANY—The U.S. Department of Justice will join state agencies in investigating allegations of anti-Semitic harassment at a Hudson Valley school district, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara wrote in a letter to the district's attorney Friday.

In the letter, obtained by Capital (and available here), Bharara wrote that the federal government will probe whether the Pine Bush school district, any of its employees or its board of education “have discriminated against students on the basis of national origin and religion.

“Under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, states many not 'deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,'” he wrote in the letter. The Constitution 'prohibits discrimination, including harassment, based on race, color, sex, religion, and national origin by public elementary and secondary schools and public institutions of higher learning.'”

Bharara requested that the district provide all documents and materials its produces for the federal lawsuit, which was filed against the district by parents of Jewish students.

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“If any violations are found, we look forward to conferring with you concerning appropriate corrective actions,” Bharara wrote.

The district's lawyer, Laura Wong-Pan, was not immediately available for comment.

In a statement Friday, Pine Bush superintendent Joan Carbone, who took the post in September after Philip Steinberg retired, said she could not comment on pending litigation. But she argued that district administrators react “promptly” to incidents of discrimination and harassment and schools have “up to date and enforced” policies against bullying.

In addition to the federal investigation, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced ongoing and new probes in the matter after a New York Times report Friday.