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CAIR Seeks Federal Investigation of Maryland Teacher’s Anti-Muslim Statements

CAIR logoTeacher told student: 'You terrorist. You little Osama. You have a bomb in your locker.'

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 7/6/2015) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today said it has asked the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights to investigate an incident at Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie, Md., in which a teacher allegedly made a series of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab statements directed at a Muslim student in a classroom.

After an altercation involving two students, the teacher reportedly approached a Muslim student of Middle Eastern heritage and said, “You terrorist. You little Osama. You have a bomb in your locker.” 

In a letter to Wendella Fox at the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, CAIR Civil Rights Litigation Director Jenifer Wicks wrote in part:

“We believe [the teacher's] statements were highly offensive and exhibit clear prejudice and antagonism towards Muslim and Arab students based on their apparent religious and racial status. Additionally, her statements may have implied to other students that all Muslims or Arabs are violent or would become terrorists. Such offensive remarks are particularly troubling because they came from a faculty member who is entrusted to maintain a safe, inclusive classroom and serve as an example for her students. We are hopeful that you will agree that such discriminatory animus has no place in a learning environment.”

While the teacher has reportedly admitted to making this statement, school administrators allegedly retaliated by moving the student to a different classroom and have refused to indicate whether and how they disciplined the teacher.

CAIR is seeking an investigation of the incident, disciplinary action against the teacher, protection from retaliation for the students in the class, and diversity training for faculty and staff.

“Bullying can have lasting, harmful repercussions and must not be tolerated,” said CAIR Maryland Outreach Manager Zainab Chaudry. “It is unacceptable and particularly disturbing when educators who are entrusted with teaching students engage in Islamophobia and bullying. We must take measures to protect students of all faiths and prevent these incidents from occurring in any school.”

The Washington-based Muslim civil rights group developed diversity training for faculty, staff and students following similar incidents in schools and encourages school systems to provide such training before incidents occur.

Last year, CAIR asked the principal of Parkdale High School in Riverdale, Md., to investigate a teacher who made a series of anti-Muslim statements to his class.

CAIR offers a booklet, called “Know Your Rights as a Muslim Youth at School,” designed to assist Muslim students in understanding their rights at school. 

CAIR also offers a booklet, called “An Educator's Guide to Islamic Religious Practices,” designed to help school officials provide a positive learning environment for Muslim students.

In 2013, CAIR's California chapter released a first-of-its-kind report documenting bias-based bullying of American Muslim students in that state's schools.

The report revealed that nearly half of Muslim students say they have been subjected to some form of bias-based bullying. One in five Muslim youth reported they were unsure of participating in classroom discussions in which Islam or Muslims are discussed and were unsure of whether teachers respected their religion.

CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

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CONTACT: CAIR Civil Rights Litigation Director Jenifer Wicks, 202-640-4934, jwicks@cair.com; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, ihooper@cair.com

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