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Day school drama: Allegations of bullying at center of heated lawsuit

Exterior of Beth Yeshurun Day School
Staff members of Beth Yeshurun Day School were sued by a family who alleges their children were bullied. Photo Courtesy Beth Yeshurun Day School/Facebook
Attorney Brian Cweren
Attorney Brian Cweren says the school failed to take appropriate action after bullying incidents. Photo Courtesy Brian Cweren
Interior of Beth Yeshurun Day School/Classroom
The lawsuit alleges a boy was bullied by fellow students at the school. An attorney for the school vigorously denies the charges. Photo Courtesy Beth Yeshurun Day School/Facebook
Exterior of Beth Yeshurun Day School
Attorney Brian Cweren
Interior of Beth Yeshurun Day School/Classroom

Beth Yeshurun Day School and its staff have been at the center of a lawsuit filed by Houston attorney Brian Cweren on behalf of a family who contend their children were bullied at the school. Judge Theresa Chang ruled in favor of school officials Tuesday, concluding there were no valid grounds to sue the individuals and that the claims against them were without merit. 

 “The allegations were promptly and thoroughly addressed,” Hachenburg said. “The school condemns all bullying.” 

However, some outstanding claims remain unresolved against the school, which means another court date for both parties.

The suit, which has stirred up a lot of discussion on social media and in Houston's tightly-knit Jewish community, alleged a 10-year-old male student was physically and emotionally abused and his younger sister was emotionally harassed at the school by other students, while school officials did nothing to intervene.

Barbara Hachenberg, attorney for Beth Yeshurun Day School, said the allegations are completely false and that the well-respected Jewish school immediately investigated the allegations.

“The allegations were promptly and thoroughly addressed. Any accusations of physical harm are untrue,” Hachenburg said. “The school condemns all bullying.”

Two accounts

Cweren, who attended Beth Yeshurun as a youngster, said the family approached him to represent them after their 10-year-old son was allegedly pinched, kicked and ostracized over a period of time. Cweren said the family pursued legal action after the mother, who was volunteering during the lunch hour, observed her son being blocked by other students at the lunch table.

According to Cweren's account, when the boy wiggled into a space at the table, the group of students then moved to a second table, leaving him behind. He attempted to find a seat at that table and was denied a second time. The mother then approached the school staff about the incident and Cweren said nothing was done about it.

“Most qualified educators would have nipped this in the bud. This school failed to take appropriate actions,” Cweren said. The family alleges their daughter’s drawings, birth date and other personal items were removed from her classroom in the midst of her brother’s bullying.

“Most qualified educators would have nipped this in the bud. This school failed to take appropriate actions,” Cweren said. 

Hachenburg said the children’s parents are really at the center of the issue, not the children. The family was asked to leave the school, but Hachenburg said it was because the mother became disruptive on the campus, not because the family sought legal action against the school.

“Unfortunately, this whole thing is about the parents and the mother forcing friendships,” Hachenburg said. “The reason why they were asked to leave was because of the mother’s disruptive behavior. It was in the best interest of the school as a whole.”

According to Cweren, the children were asked to leave the school with 30 days remaining in the academic year, making it difficult for them to complete their respective grades and school work. He said the parents then attempted to enroll them in public school, but because of the timing of the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills state testing, schools were reluctant to enroll them. The family also explored other private schools, finding few slots.

“The mother hired tutors and then they were placed in a new private school, where they were well-received,” Cweren said. 

Hachenburg said the administration of Beth Yeshurun Day School helped the family find a new school for the students. “With our faculty assistance, they immediately got into a private Jewish school,” she said. “We wish the children the very best at the new school.”

Day in court

While Chang ruled that the suit against a teacher, the principal, and the head of the school was not valid, the court will sort through remaining allegations against the school. Both sides said they are eager to have their day in court.

“The facts of this case are shocking. Any judge or jury will find the same,” Cweren said. “The school needs to be held accountable. They were grossly negligent on how this was handled.”

“We expect the rest of the case to be disposed through the court system,” Hachenburg said. “Once all the facts are heard, they will find no merit to these allegations. Beth Yeshurun will be vindicated of all charges.”

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