Jewish community calls for answers after Las Vegas special needs teen had ‘swastika’ on skin

Published: Apr. 21, 2023 at 7:01 AM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - Leaders from the Jewish community across the Las Vegas Valley are calling for answers and more action to stop hate in schools, after an investigation surrounding a special needs teenager and a skin injury that looks like a “swastika. "

“I was scared and angry. I didn’t know if it was safe to send my son to school,” said the mother, who asked to remain anonymous and that we conceal her identity for her family’s safety.

The student wears a Yamulke daily, the proper head covering for Jewish men. The mother said her son, who just turned eighteen, has autism and is mostly nonverbal.

The teenager attends Clark High School, but the mother pulled him out of school.

“It’s turned his life upside down right now. He’s usually very happy,” the mother said, noting her son does enjoy going to class.

In early March, the mother was giving her son a shower as soon as he came home from school. She discovered marks and became alarmed.

“That looks like a swastika,” she said, immediately notifying staff and teachers, who she said echoed her opinions. “I think it’s really scary, and I think people are afraid to talk about it,” she said.

Her son could not verbally describe what happened, but his mother said he was scared to go into bathrooms after the incident. She also found her son’s service dog satchel had damage.

By March 13, she had filed a CCSD police report. By the end of the month, the mother said she had pulled her son out of school.

“It’s heartbreaking. I think the perpetrators are cowardly to pick on someone who can’t speak for themselves. There’s definitely a lot of hate out there in the world,” said Rabbi Levi Harlig of the Chabad of Southern Nevada, who the mother reached out to for assistance.

Rabbi Harlig, who said he believes the ordeal is a hate crime, has spoken with CCSD police on the progress of their investigation and expressed frustration at the pace for getting answers.

“If it was your own son, your own child, you’d want to get to the bottom of it, and you want to get to the bottom of it quickly,” he said.

“Anti-Semitism is real. It’s ugly, and [there’s] a lot of evil out there,” Rabbi Harlig said, who himself has experienced such hate in his role as a faith leader.

“This is by far one of the most egregious incidents that I have seen take place in our community.”

We want to make sure that every student goes to school and is able to feel safe and protected in their education.

“This is not the first incident that we’ve had within the school district,” said Jolie Brislin, Nevada Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League. The ADL has also reached out to CCSD to discuss education and training to help staff spot Anti-Semitism, and spur education among students and staff.

The family and leaders urge anyone with information to contact the FBI or the Anti-Defamation League.

CCSD urges anyone with information on the incident to report tips to school police. The district issued the following statement:

CCSD Police took a report of injuries discovered by a parent at home in mid-March. Police conducted a thorough investigation, including interviews with staff and a review of available camera footage. The investigation found no evidence that would indicate the origin of the injuries. Additionally, other law enforcement agencies reviewed the information and found no evidence that would indicate the origin of the injuries.

CCSD is inclusive of all races, ethnicities, cultures, religions/beliefs, sexual orientations, gender identities, socioeconomic statuses, abilities, and living arrangements.

We will not tolerate discriminatory behaviors that contradict an inclusive community and impact student safety and well-being. If anyone has any additional information related to this case, we urge them to contact school police immediately.