It's not easy being a Jewish teen

Walking through the halls like an average teen is easy for me. However, when ‘Christmas time’ rolls around suddenly I’m not average. When people ask, “What are you asking for for Christmas?” the talks of the season begin.

I have a hard time mentioning that, yes, I am Jewish and no, I don’t believe Jesus is God’s son. I just never know how people will react.

Usually it’s positive. But, there are some people around this school who will do everything in their power to make people like me feel bad about something that is part of their culture.

Antisemitism is all over. It shouldn’t be anywhere, but the last place it should be in is school. Just because one doesn’t hear about it, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Denial isn’t a river in Egypt.

I spoke to Principal Dr. Kathy McFarland to get a better understanding of how the administration deals with these sort of things. However, before I spoke to her, I mentioned what I was writing about to other people.

When I talked to kids around Orange and even teachers who are predominantly not Jewish, they questioned where and when I had seen anyone bullied because of their religion.

Actually, it was me when a classmate made jokes about Hitler and the gas chambers. And it was my cousin when her classmate drew swastikas to intimidate her.

Generally, people who fall into the ‘majority’ category don’t know that students are being targeted based on who they choose to pray to. I don’t blame them for their blindness to the subject because it has nothing to do with them and the other 2.3 billion Christians.

Nonetheless, just 0.2 percent of the world shares the same religion as me. So how can we open people’s eyes to the discrimination of minorities, not just Jews?

Although we are required to sign a code of conduct that says we will not harass, intimidate or bully our fellow students, how do we know that if someone does this to us and we do report it, that action will be taken?

Actually we don’t. There’s a little thing called FERPA or the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. This act may be why students have such a hard time contacting someone for help. This act protects the victim and the perpetrator.

The federal government created FERPA to allow parents to protect their children’s educational records, which happens to include not just your transcripts or report cards, but also discipline records.

A lot of times administration will investigate and give punishments, but because they can’t report it, people think nothing happened.

“It’s just something where you have to trust the system. You just have to know that by law and because it’s right, we have to address situations. I know that’s frustrating because people want to know what happens,” McFarland said.

It’s hard to ‘trust the system.’ If I can’t see anything being done about discrimination, how can I feel comfortable telling anyone about it?

The answer is I just have to. If no one else tells administration about an incident, then they can’t take action. It’s almost a never ending cycle.

If someone blatantly says something derogatory about something that makes you different, whether it is your religion, race, nationality, sexual orientation or gender, you need to stand up for yourself. We have to trust that as we continue to speak out, even with a system that protects the privacy of the perpetrators, we can put an end to this behavior.

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