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Pine Bush Residents Rally In Protest After Anti-Semitic Bullying Allegations

PINE BUSH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Neighbors rallied in the Orange County municipality of Pine Bush Sunday night, saying the good name of their town has been besmirched following reports of anti-Semitic bullying at an area school.

As CBS 2's Hazel Sanchez reported, car horns honked in support of dozens of mothers, fathers, teachers and students, who were linked arm-in-arm with a message.

"I want them to look at this line, and I want them to see the interlock of love and respect and acceptance of all different colors, race and religion," said Lula Tartaglione.

"We are a loving, caring community," added Annette Kahrs, "and we don't deserve to be painted in such a negative fashion."

The quiet hamlet was on the defensive after three local families filed a federal lawsuit against the Pine Bush school district. They alleged school officials turned a blind eye to years of anti-Semitic bullying by students.

"On a regular basis, they were bullied and faced anti-Semitic harassment in the form of swastikas, graffiti, being pelted with coins; sometimes being beaten. And it happened on a regular basis for years," public justice attorney Adele P. Kimmel told CBS 2's Lou Young last week.

Residents Sunday night said the incidents in no way represented the community.

"That incident may have occurred. We do not condone it," said Pine Bush resident John Kahrs. "We're sensitive to it. We all have children in this district."

"You don't want to be painted in the wrong light, and we certainly were, and that's why we're all out here tonight -- to show that that's not what we're about," added Sean Sweeney.

Residents such as Tamika Terry hoped the long line of solidarity will speak volumes about the Pine Bush community they know and love.

"It's a really awesome school; really loving. I love it," Terry said. "I came up from Jersey to raise our family here, and we couldn't think of any other place to call home than this place."

Speaking to CBS 2's Young last week, one soccer coach from nearby Middletown said the Ku Klux Klan had a local branch in Pine Bush at one time. But local residents said that's history from 40 years ago and welcomed the announcement by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that he is launching a human rights investigation based on the lawsuit.

The school district superintendent is not taking the lawsuit lightly. She plans to meet with New York State police later this week to discuss allegations of anti-Semitism in the schools.

The district had 5,600 students drawn from the counties. Fewer than 10 percent are Jewish, Young reported.

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