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Bergen County Teacher Sues His School District Because ‘Jewish People’ Made Him a ‘Perfect Scapegoat’

Robert Welsh, a seventh-grade social studies teacher in Bergen County, is suing Woodcliff Lake Public Schools for indefinitely suspending him (with pay) last February and making him a “perfect scapegoat” because, says the lawsuit, he is a “socially conservative Christian” who teaches “in a community with a large Jewish population.”

According to Welsh, he was teaching students about totalitarian governments and was using Hitler Nazism as an example. He explained that the swastika was originally a Hindu symbol for prosperity and gave students an assignment to make a project that used a political cartoon from the point of view of a government official. He says he never told students to draw swastikas–in fact, he “explicitly instructed the students never to draw the swastika outside of the classroom setting of the poster project.”

But on Feb. 3d he was summoned to Schools Superintendent Lauren Barbelet ‘s office. She told him “Jewish people” in town were upset about the lesson and she ordered him “to fix this.” He wrote a letter to parents with the help of an NJEA representative: “I certainly apologize for any misconceptions or misperceptions that this lesson may have caused,” the letter said. But the district never mailed it to parents because Barbelet thought it “wasn’t good enough.” The School Board suspended him indefinitely on Feb. 7th and formally accused him of violating the state law against bullying, harassment, and intimidation. He said this allegation was actually part of a “series of discriminatory acts” against him on the “basis of his religion and creed.”

Welsh filed his lawsuit in Superior Court in Hackensack because “the [school] board well knows that the plaintiff has now been falsely branded in the community as some sort of pro-Hitler teacher, which it knows will effectively end his teaching career.” The suit also says school officials “had it in” for him because he “tried to launch a Christian club for students and later objected to state-mandated education on sex and LGBTQ issues.”

On Welsh’s page on the district website, he lists classroom expectations like, “MAKE-UPS –  I don’t believe in make-ups. No student will be allowed to take a quiz or test again due to poor performance.” His “about me” page says he is a big Dave Matthews fan.

Woodcliff Lake school officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

 

Staff Writer

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