Jews On First has the details. You may remember Indian River as the area of Delaware from which the Dobriches, a Jewish family, fled to escape the non-stop harassment, antisemitic abuse, and Christian bigotry which began when they complained about the district-sanctioned proselytizing by teachers and school officials.
The story has been proceeding through varying levels of ugliness for a few years. Just a few months ago there was that elementary school teacher who told her class that Barack Obama was a Muslim, and therefore “different” and “scary”. Or the mob of 800 that turned out to jeer & silence advocates of pluralism at an IRSD board meeting in 2006.
Hopefully, this lawsuit settlement – which includes not only monetary damages paid to the victims of the harassment but new, constitutional, policies on what religious expression is and is not allowed in a public school – will eventually protect the religious minorities of southeastern Delaware from more violations of their and their childrens’ constitutional rights. (see Jews On First for the text of the new policies, it’s a fascinating read) But before the happy dances can begin in Indian River, there needs to be a sea change in the local culture. And there needs to be eagle-eyed vigilance to make sure these new policies are followed.
I was astonished when this story first broke a few years ago, that these kind of First Amendment and civil rights violations could happen in the beach towns of what I considered the diverse and enlightened Mid-Atlantic, but a friend from Wilmington, DE insisted that she wasn’t surprised. The reaches below the C & D Canal (containing most of Delaware’s area and a tiny fraction of its population) are known to the Wilmingtonians to their north as “The Slower Lower”, a region less defined by its historical stature as the First State or by its consumer-pleasing lack of sales tax, and more by its residents’ apparent difficulty with remembering which side of the Civil War they were on. (That would be the winning side).
So is it possible to introduce a culture of respect for diversity by fiat? What is needed to make it stick?