On her first day at a public magnet high school with a focus on marine biology, Paige (her last name has been kept private) experienced bigotry for the first time in her life, as Sharon Otterman reports:
[Paige] came home in tears because two teachers had laughed when pronouncing a student’s last name, Guiffre, as “Jew-Frey.” “I wouldn’t want a last name like that,” she recalled one teacher saying. The same teacher would later recommend Mein Kampf to her class as a great book. Late that school year, Paige’s mother complained about some of the incidents to the school district, including that one student had identified himself on social media as a member of the Hitler Youth. Nothing seemed to change.
This sort of thing became commonplace over the next two years, but the following incident nonetheless stood out:
The letters stretch over 30 feet, written into the sand on a beach in New Jersey. The teenager in the photo rests casually on his side above the words, smiling, his head propped up in his hand. “I h8 Jews,” the words read. The anti-Semitic picture, taken on a junior class trip and texted to a group of classmates at a high school on the Jersey Shore in 2018, was portrayed to the group as an edgy joke.
“Yearbook cover,” the boy in the picture texted. “Oh yea,” responded one girl, active in the yearbook club, adding that she had already submitted the photo to the faculty adviser. “It’s gonna be great.”
Paige, who was among the many students receiving the picture, complained to her parents, who then brought up the incident with the principal, who took some limited disciplinary action. After that, the harassment grew worse: Paige was not just Jewish but a “snitch.” When her parents went to the principal again, he “recommended she worry less about friends at school and find friends in her synagogue.” Unsurprisingly, perhaps, other parents rallied around the offending students, who insisted that they weren’t anti-Semites at all—just teenagers with a healthy sense of humor.