- A Jewish middle school teacher resigned after facing months of antisemitism from one of his students.
- Morrison Robblee told Insider that administrators didn’t take his frustrations seriously.
- The incident is part of a disturbing larger trend of increasing antisemitism across the country.
A Jewish middle school teacher in Massachusetts resigned last month after dealing with what he said was months of ongoing antisemitic harassment from one of his sixth-grade students.
Morrison Robblee, who previously taught social studies at Nessacus Regional Middle School, told Insider on Friday that his former student’s antisemitism gradually escalated into full-blown Nazi jokes and Holocaust references.
The 12-year-old student now faces a misdemeanor charge of criminal harassment, according to The Berkshire Eagle, after the Dalton Police Department charged him in juvenile court on Tuesday.
Representatives from the Dalton Police Department did not respond to Insider’s request for comment. A spokesperson with the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office declined to discuss specifics of the case, but told Insider that the district attorney is coordinating with the New England chapter of the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires to try and prevent future hate incidents in the region.
Robblee told Insider the harassment began in February of this year, when he tried to quiet his class one day. The child began shouting homophobic slurs, Robblee said, and he immediately removed the student from the class. Later, the school administration held a “restorative circle,” where the student, Robblee, and an administrator reflected on the incident together, Robblee said.
“The student didn’t actually say anything during the meeting,” Robblee said. “That probably should have cued me that this was not going to end.”
Robblee told Insider the situation escalated further in April when he wore a Jewish kippah to school during Passover; the student made hateful comments about the traditional head covering, prompting Robblee to send him to detention.
A few days later, Robblee said the student approached him with what he thought would be a written apology. But the piece of paper was actually a violent drawing depicting Adolf Hitler standing over a dead person labeled “Jew,” with swastikas and canisters labeled “gas” scattered across the page. Insider has viewed the drawing, which featured the words “Sorry Jew” written atop the page.
Robblee also provided Insider with several rough drafts the student had made. Robblee noted that the student had clearly gone to great lengths to create the offensive drawing.
The school suspended the student and removed him from Robblee’s class following the incident, according to Robblee, but he told Insider the student’s harassment was allowed to persist in the hallways. Robblee said he still oversaw the student’s curriculum, develop lessons, and grade his work, adding that throughout this period, the student emailed him insults about his teaching and sent him a handwritten note insulting him.
In May, Robblee said he filed an official grievance with his union, citing an unsafe work environment, and the union advised him to bring the student’s antisemitic drawings and emails to police.
He also told administrators in a letter that he was concerned the student would be further radicalized with hate if steps weren’t taken to discipline him.
Robblee claimed in his interview with Insider the school failed to adequately protect him. He said the school should have removed the student from the classroom earlier, provided a behavior technician or paraprofessional to monitor him, and implemented some sort of school-wide anti-bias education, such as holding an assembly or inviting the Anti-Defamation League to speak.
“They really tried to sweep this under the rug. They really tried to protect their reputation,” Robblee said.
In May, the Central Berkshire Regional School District placed Robblee on administrative leave, citing the student’s allegations that Robblee made a face at him in the hallway, according to The Eagle. Robblee told Insider that he did stick out his tongue at the student in a moment of frustration after the student swore at him.
Rather than return to his position following a verbal reprimand from the administration, Robblee said he chose to resign because he didn’t feel like his concerns were being taken seriously.
“I take the keys out of my pocket, slide ’em across the table, and say, ‘There’s absolutely no way I am coming back to work in your school,'” Robblee told The Eagle.
Representatives with the school district did not respond to Insider’s request for comment but did tell The Eagle that an investigation into Robblee’s conduct is ongoing.
The incident in Dalton is part of a larger trend across the country of increasing antisemitism. An April report from Tel Aviv University’s Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry and the US-based Anti-Defamation League found that antisemitism and related hate incidents were on the rise throughout 2022.
The number of antisemitic incidents in the country increased by 36% in the last year, including campus and school incidents up by nearly 50%. according to the report.