ME: 'HATE INCIDENT' IN CITY
One student has been suspended and more disciplinary action could follow a possible hate crime at Lewiston Middle School, Superintendent Leon Levesque said Wednesday.
On April 11, a white student placed a ham steak in a bag on a lunch table where Somali students were eating. Muslims consider pork unclean and offensive.
The act reminded students of a man who threw a pig's head into a Lewiston mosque last summer.
The school incident is being treated seriously as "a hate incident," Levesque said. Lewiston police are investigating, and the Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence is working with the school to create a response plan.
"We've got some work to do to turn this around and bring the school community back together again," Levesque said.
Placing ham where Muslim students were eating was "an awful thing," said Stephen Wessler, executive director of the Center for Prevention of Hate Violence. "It's extraordinarily hurtful and degrading" to Muslims, whose religion prohibits them from being around ham. It's important to respond swiftly, Wessler said.
"Incidents like this that involve degrading language or conduct are often said by the perpetrator as a joke. I know that conduct is never static," he said. "It's part of a process of escalation."
If people think insulting Muslims with ham is OK, "More degrading acts will follow, until at some point we'll end up having violence," Wessler said.