TWIN FALLS, Idaho — The mother of a middle school student says her 13-year-old daughter has been subjected to bullying and antisemitism from fellow students. These claims were eventually investigated by the Twin Falls Police Department. The case has now been turned over to the county prosecutor.
Michele Mich said she grew up in Twin Falls then moved away for a while and moved back about three weeks ago. But it wasn't the homecoming she was hoping for.
Her daughter's first day of seventh grade at South Hills Middle School was on Monday, April 19.
Mich said the ten days of harassment began on her first day there.
"It started Monday afternoon but she didn't realize that's what it was but it really took off on Tuesday," she said. "It was about some girls who said that their boyfriends liked her too much. Then it just got really bad at school, they started bullying her, being really mean to her, telling her that she was trying to take their boyfriends."
Mich said she alerted the school of the bullying, but felt that there was more to be done.
"Monday, I walked her into school and asked to talk to the principal and told the principal everything that was going on because over the weekend the girls got really nasty over Snapchat and TikTok," she explained. "One girl even said 'i'm going to beat your [expletive]."
"So that was Tuesday, by Wednesday of last week is when she (said) someone says, a boy says, 'Go away, Jew," Mich added.
"She thought 'Oh, he's Jewish and she said, 'You're Jewish?' and he said, 'No, we're just playing a game, he's Hitler and I'm a Jew'" Mich recalled, "and said, 'Oh, ok' and then put her backpack up on a table and she has a Star of David on it and the kid said, 'Oh, you really are a Jew' and she said, 'Yeah, I am' and then it went into, one kid said, 'I idolize Hitler and 'it doesn't matter that he's dead, I still idolize him, what does it matter that he's dead?' and then he told (her) that he was going to gas her."
"And she said, 'that's not funny,' and he kept saying, 'I idolize Hitler and she said, 'my grandpa survived the Holocaust but his wife and two daughters did not.' trying to just say listen this is really offensive (thing)" Mich went on. "Another kid said, 'I like to tease Jews and you're going to hate me by the end of this class.' And she kept telling them to stop."
Mich's daughter said this all happened out of earshot of teachers.
"Then one kid just would come up to her in the hallway when he would see her or in a class, if they were together and say, 'I'm German, I'm German," and she kept saying, 'You need to stop.' She kept telling him, 'You need to stop,'" Mich said. "So this was Thursday and after school, she came home and she said, and she was crying, and she said, 'These kids won't stop about Hitler and gassing me.'"
By Friday, Mich pulled her daughter out of the school after she was unable to get the help that she thinks this type of harassment requires, she said.
Now, the matter has been handed off to the county prosecutor for consideration.
"My goal is to not punish the children. If the adults would have done their job in the beginning, it would not have escalated to this, I don't believe it would have," Mich said.
She added that she realizes that what the kids learned came from somewhere else and it needs to be stopped where it starts.
Dan Prinzing, the executive director for the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights, agrees.
At the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial in downtown Boise, local artist Ken McCall created a statue to illustrate "the spiral of injustice," how marginalization and hateful rhetoric can snowball into genocide if left unchecked.
"And if we don't call them out then it will devolve from that point. What do we do next? Avoidance, discrimination then violence once I've so demeaned or marginalized you, I've now dehumanized you and we can cause harm," Prinzing explained. "The language that started the Holocaust, or the Armenian Genocide, Bosnian, Rwandan, Cambodian, it all starts with words."
Mich said the school could have dealt with the matter sooner and better.
The Twin Falls School District told The 208 that officials have been in contact with the family and have done their own investigation, and have worked with detectives in Twin Falls police's investigation.
The county prosecutor will now consider the case.
Twin Falls School District officials said in a statement,
"We are very concerned about this reported student behavior. Any form of harassment or bullying is not acceptable in our schools. We have policies in place that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race or religion and prohibit harassment and bullying. No student should have to endure harassment due to his/her race or religion. We want to ensure that our schools are a safe environment for all to learn and will continue to address incidents of harassment within our schools."
In order to do this, school district officials said they need everyone's assistance, from students, staff members, and parents, working together to be on the lookout for troubling behaviors and report them.
Which is basically what Michele Mich was asking for in the first place.
"Well, what do we know out of history, if something gets said enough all of a sudden people start believing it and repeating it without thinking about it," Prinzing said.
Mich told The 208 that if she doesn't speak up now, then she's allowing it to happen all over again later.
"We owe it to our history to not allow these things to happen," she said.
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