Swastika carved into US Jewish teen’s back at school; culprits not found in 6 weeks

Boy, 17, with nonverbal autism is only kippah-wearing student at Las Vegas school; mom pulls him from institution, doesn’t trust version of events by staffer tasked with aiding him

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

A swastika etched into the back of a US Jewish boy with special needs at a Las Vegas school, March 9, 2023. (Courtesy; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
A swastika etched into the back of a US Jewish boy with special needs at a Las Vegas school, March 9, 2023. (Courtesy; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

A US Jewish boy with special needs had a swastika carved into his back last month, allegedly by fellow students in his high school in Las Vegas, according to various media reports.

Six weeks after the incident, the culprits haven’t been found — the school doesn’t have CCTV cameras in most areas — and the FBI is reportedly involved in the antisemitic hate crime investigation.

The 17-year-old student has autism, is nonverbal, uses a service dog and has a full-time staffer shadowing him, according to US and other media reports.

He was wearing a kippah during the attack, indicating he’s a religious Jew. His mother, who quickly alerted authorities to her son’s injury, has said he is the only identifiably Jewish student at Clark High School.

She said she has pulled her son from the school, deeming it an “unsafe environment.”

The mother, who asked not to be identified, told the Jewish Press website last week that in addition to the swastika-shaped injury, she found that the equipment bag carried by the boy’s service dog had been torn and resewn.

She spoke of her apparent distrust of the staffer who had been assisting her son, who had flatly denied that anything unusual had happened that day, March 9.

A school bus at the entrance to Clark High School in Las Vegas, April 2018. (Screenshot/Google Street View)

The mother told the outlet that she had asked the assistant whether the boy was out of her sight that 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.”

But the assistant responded in a text that the boy had a “good day,” adding: “No meltdowns or anything. He was with me the whole day [and] he didn’t use the restroom.”

However, the boy refused to use the restroom the next day, the mother told Jewish Press.

She said the assistant was still working at the Clark County School District, to the best of her knowledge, adding: “Her job was to be with my son. If she did not do it I believe she knows who did.”

She added that she once dropped off her boy with the assistant at school only to get notified later by his teacher and occupational therapist that he had been absent from class.

The FBI said in a statement Sunday that it was prepared to join the investigation if evidence of a federal crime is established. However, according to a statement last week by the Nevada branch of the Anti-Defamation League, the bureau is already involved in the investigation.

“ADL condemns this violent, antisemitic act,” said ADL Nevada 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.”

The Clark County School District said last week that its police force had conducted a “thorough investigation, including interviews with staff and a review of available camera footage,” but found “no evidence that would indicate the origin of the injuries.” It said that “other law enforcement agencies” had reviewed the findings.

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