Collier “Kick a Jew Day” controversy continues

December 9th, 2009 by

COLLIER COUNTY: The superintendent for the Collier County School District wants to set the record straight, about “Kick a Jew Day.”

Ten students at North Naples Middle School served one-day suspensions for taking part in what one board member calls a hate crime.

Superintendent Dennis Thompson responded to critics who say the punishment wasn’t strong enough.

Thompson will let the controversy continue.

“I’ve gotten more feedback on this than any other issue,” he said.

He’s putting the recent incident at North Naples Middle on Thursday’s school board agenda. Originally referred to as “Kick a Jew Day”, Thompson now says only one of the 20 students kicked was Jewish.

“There’s no indication of mass religious or racial intolerance here,” said Thompson.

But Thompson knows bringing up the incident invites any opinion, including the one of Collier School Board member Richard Calabrese.

“I think of it as a hate crime. There’s no way around it, it’s a hate crime,” he said.

Calabrese says even if just one Jewish student was kicked, it’s one too many.

He added that a one day in-school suspension is not enough punishment and says the superintendent is downplaying the issue.

“Will it be Catholics next weeks or Baptists? Or will it be the African-Americans? Where does it stop?” he asked.

But Thompson says the punishment fits the crime. During the school board meeting, he hopes to set the record straight about what really happened.

“People are going to be angry over this and they need to express their anger,” Thompson said.

But at the same time, he knows it will keep bringing out painful reminders for some.

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