Las Vegas, NV – The mother of a visibly Jewish 17-year-old teen with autism was horrified to discover that someone had carved a swastika into her son’s back during the day.
The teen, who is nonverbal and wears a kipah, attends regular classes at Clark High School, where he has a full-time shadow to assist him and is accompanied by a service dog.
Nevertheless, the teen came home on March 9 with the swastika on his back, his mother said in an email interview with JewishPress.com, also requesting anonymity for safety considerations.
She also discovered that the equipment bag carried by her son’s service dog was broken and had been resewn. The bag, which is with the shadow all day, holds the service dog equipment such as tracking items, dog treats, water and doggy bags.
When the mother notified the school about her son’s injury, however, she was told in response by the shadow that “nothing happened at school.”
The mother said she asked the shadow whether the boy was away from his shadow at all during the day. “Did he use the bathroom? Did he have any meltdowns yesterday? I would think this would have caused him to have a meltdown or get agitated,” she said.
However, the shadow responded by writing that the boy “had a good day yesterday. No meltdowns or anything. He was with me the whole day [and] he didn’t use the restroom.”
The boy refused to use the restroom the next day (March 10), she added.
The family subsequently filed a report with Clark County School District Police on March 13.
“As far as I know the 1:1 (ed: shadow) is still working at CCSD (Clark County School District). Her job was to be with my son. If she did not do it I believe she knows who did,” the mother told JewishPress.com.
“The shadow has kept [my son] from class in the past,” she continued. “I dropped him off at school one time last year and I got an email from the teacher and occupational therapist that he was absent from class.
“I pulled my son out of school because it’s an unsafe environment,” she added.
Because there are no CCTV cameras in any of the classrooms, locker rooms or bathrooms, there was no video of the incident.
The incident is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as a suspected hate crime, according to the Anti-Defamation League of Nevada, which issued a strong condemnation about the attack.
“ADL condemns this violent, antisemitic act,” said ADL Nevada Regional Director Jolie Brislin.
“Not only was this student targeted for his identifiable faith, but he was particularly vulnerable due to his disability. This incident illustrates points of intersectionality in how hate can show itself across marginalized communities,” Brislin said.
“ADL Nevada, in partnership with Jewish Nevada and SCN, has been in close contact with the parents, CCSD and law enforcement, and will be working with Clark High School to provide antisemitism education,” he continued.
“School should be no place for hate and no student should be made to feel unsafe and threatened.”