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'We have to make anti-Semitism more visible': Berlin schools to report incidents

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'We have to make anti-Semitism more visible': Berlin schools to report incidents
One of the schools in which a student was reportedly bullied. Photo: DPA
14:54 CEST+02:00
Starting in the school year 2019/2020, educational institutions in Berlin will be required to report cases of anti-Semitism to the police or the school authorities, Berlin’s senate administration (Senateverwaltung) decided on Monday.

Harassment  that’s ‘unconstitutional’ is already required to be reported, but the explicit mention of anti-Semitism is intended to raise awareness of the problem in schools and provide concrete figures on incidents, Senateverwaltung speaker Beate Stoffers told DPA.

The decision follows the case of a Jewish boy at an elite school in Berlin’s Zehlendorf, which recently made political waves. The ninth-grader had reportedly been bullied and threatened by his classmates for months.

‘Reliable figures’

With reliable figures - set to be published regularly - it will be possible to answer the question of whether anti-Semitism is spreading, State Secretary for Education Mark Rackles (SPD) told the Neues Deutschland newspaper.

“In order to be able to fight anti-Semitism, we have to make it more visible,” he said.

In future, anti-Semitism will be listed alongside right-wing and left-wing extremism as a category of anti-constitutional statements in the so-called "Emergency Plans for Berlin Schools" and therefore recorded separately.

"This is intended to encourage school administrations to take a proactive approach to bullying incidents based on religion and nationality, and not to sweep them under the carpet," Rackles continued.

Reliable data is needed, he said, in order for prevention projects against anti-Semitism and other forms of racism and discrimination to be effective.

Is anti-Semitic bullying in Berlin schools a problem?

Over the past couple of years, there has been several cases of anti-Semitic verbal and physical harassment incidents at Berlin schools, but the exact number is unknown.

In the most high-profile case in June, it was reported that a student at the prestigious John F. Kennedy school had been bullied and taunted for months for being Jewish, sometimes receiving notes on his desks showing a swastika.

In March, a girl at the Paul-Simmel-Grundschule was reportedly told that she deserved to be beaten and killed after she admitted to a Muslim classmate that she was Jewish, the girl’s father told the Berliner Zeitung.

SEE ALSO: Anti-Semitic crime in Berlin doubles in four years

In December 2017, a high school student in Berlin’s Gesundbrunnen neighbourhood also received death threats for being Jewish, reported Bild.

“We need a ‘Federal Situation Report on Violence in Schools'. Within this report, all cases of verbal, physical and armed violence should be recorded," DPoIG Chairman Rainer Wendt had told Bild after the incident.

The number of anti-Jewish attacks in schools have to be correctly recorded, Wendt said, in order to assure that the true scale of the problem is understood. "This is the only way we can be clear about the actual number of cases".

Germany's first 'anti-Semitism commissioner Daniel Klein who was appointed in May has said he wants to create a nationwide reporting system for anti-Semitic acts, even those below the "criminal liability limit".

In addition, said Klein, he wants to name a police contact person for each German state to make reporting such incidents easier.

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