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Department of Justice investigating Mohawk School District

By By GARY LIBERATORE

MOHAWK, N.Y. (WKTV) - The United States Department of Justice is now intervening in the lawsuit of the gay Mohawk teenager who felt he was harassed at school.

Last August, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of a 14-year-old boy named Jacob who attended Jarvis High School in Mohawk. Now, months later there is word the U.S. Justice Department is investigating the district.

The NYCLU suit alleged Jacob was harassed for two years by other students for his sexual orientation. He has said he was even threatened with a knife and threatened he would be hung up on a flag pole. The suit alleges the district was made aware of the harassment, but did nothing to stop it.

The attorneys from the NYCLU that filed the initial lawsuit believe the federal investigation is good news for kids who go to school in Mohawk. NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman told NEWSChannel, "this means that there will be an independent assessment of the school district's commitment and procedures to ensure that every child who goes there, has a right to go there in a safe and nurturing environment, and it will ensure, I hope, that there is an end to homophobic bullying and harassment the school district has yet to get a handle on."

Mohawk Schools Superintendent Joyce Caputo issued a statement on the district's website on Friday. She said, "The Mohawk Central School District cooperated fully with representatives of the U.S. Justice Department back in December when they indicated an interest in this case. We'll continue to cooperate with them and welcome any recommendations they may provide as we go forward."

Caputo noted, "our school leadership is open to new ideas and recommendations on how it can take a more proactive role in teaching respect and appreciation for that diversity. in fact, the mohawk central school district has already conducted staff development programs on this topic and put a number of new anti-bullying programs and supports into place in the past year. Additional initiatives are currently in the planning and development stage."

In the statement, Caputo indicated the pending federal lawsuit is close to a settlement, but when asked about that, NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said she cannot comment on ongoing litigation.

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