A 16-year-old alleges that his New Jersey high school retaliated against him after he reported antisemitic threats.
A Jewish student alleges that administrators at his Cherry Hill, N.J. public high school retaliated against him after he reported multiple instances of antisemitic bullying and threats.
Levi Bolotina, 16, and his family have appealed his suspension from Cherry Hill High School East, which U.S. News & World Report ranks No. 1,651 in its national high school rankings, No. 77 in New Jersey and No. 41 in the metropolitan Philadelphia area.
Bolotina told JNS that a group of fellow students, clad in keffiyehs, threatened him on Oct. 12 at around 8:30 a.m. “They planned on attacking me because I had been posting videos of them wearing the garment, and the videos went viral,” he said. “I reported this to the school.”
School administrators put Bolotina in a room for two hours, he told JNS. He further alleges that while he was confined, Dennis Perry and Aaron Edwards—principal and assistant principal, respectively—“antagonized me, saying: ‘You have made yourself a target for people inside the school as well as people outside the district.’” (JNS sought comment from Perry and did not hear back.)
When released, Bolotina says the same group of students that had threatened him followed him to the cafeteria.
“Almost a minute after I sat down, [these] students had cornered me around my lunch table, making sort of an intimidating barrier. They started to threaten me to my face. Honestly, I couldn’t make out exactly what they were saying to me because I was now in fight-or-flight mode,” he told JNS, adding that he felt “intimidated and in danger.”
His friends pulled him away while two others placed themselves between him and the other group. “My friends that made the barrier were now receiving jabs from the attackers,” he said. “I was escorted to yet another room … where the principal told me I had brought this upon myself. I was kicked out for the day and later suspended for a week on the grounds of incitement.”
Since those incidents, Bolotina told JNS that he has been threatened in school bathrooms and that he is unaware of any action taken against the menacing students.
‘Make Jewish students feel safe’
Bolotina also shared with JNS a statement he made during a Dec. 19 closed session of the Cherry Hill Public Schools Board of Education.
After Hamas’s Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel, students “showed up wearing Palestinian keffiyehs and waving Palestinian flags” and yelling “free Palestine” at Jewish students at the school, he told the board.
He added that he met with Perry and “implored him to take action, to make Jewish students feel safe.” To date, says the teen, he has seen no action taken.
To prove how his antisemitic classmates had acted, Bolotina filmed two videos of different groups of students and uploaded them to social media, he told the board.
“Senior school officials began to blame me for the growing discord at school, both to my face and publicly [if not by name],” he told the board. “I was being scapegoated by school officials, rather than them taking responsibility for their lack of leadership.”
He further alleged to the board that Edwards, the assistant principal, took him into his office to protect him from physical threats. Perry then “stormed in” and blamed him for the events, Bolotina alleged.
“He said, ‘Levi, if you post any more videos, you’re out of here,’” he told the board.
“So I agreed not to post any more videos,” the teen stated.
He told the board: “Incredibly, my attackers were suspended for less days. The principal told me I had brought this upon myself. I was kicked out for the day and later suspended for a week on the grounds of incitement.” (He didn’t say how long the others were suspended or how he knew what their punishment was.)
“Would the district tolerate such hate against any other minority?” he asked the board.
After Bolotina’s suspension, Muslim students told him in a school bathroom that “it’s not safe for Jews here,” Bolotina told the board.
“We can only conclude that Jew-hatred is tolerated by Cherry Hill Schools,” Bolotina said to them. “That Jews are second-class citizens here.”
He added that the students who threatened him weren’t suspended and that witnesses to the threats in the bathroom, whose names he provided to the Cherry Hill Police Department, reported that police officers never questioned them. (Thomas Leone, a lieutenant and investigative unit commander, said that the department cannot comment on juvenile investigations and referred questions to the school and education board.)
Bolotina added that Perry turned down an opinion article he wrote for his journalism class about the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks in Israel. The principal told him that he would have to include both sides of the issue in an op-ed, Bolotina alleged.
The Cherry Hill area includes a population of about 11,000 Jews with seven synagogues and 11 kosher restaurants.