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CAIR Welcomes Md. School’s Swift Response to Islamophobic Class Presentation, Bullying Incident

(BALTIMORE, MD, 2/18/20) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations today applauded the swift, multi-disciplinary response from administrators at Catonsville Middle School in Baltimore County, Md., after a series of disturbing events stemming from an Islamophobic FOX News video clip about the Muslim Ban that was shown to an 8th grade class last Friday.

The teacher reportedly intended to include the news clip with the current lesson plan related to the Sedition Act and deportation. However, the anti-Muslim language and content left Muslim students in the class feeling targeted, isolated and singled out. 

As one Muslim student explained to the teacher why she was upset and crying, a classmate recorded her on his phone without her knowledge or consent. Later, he and his friends began harassing and taunting the student and her other Muslim friends, chasing them and referencing the recorded video. Multiple Muslim students were impacted and distraught over the incident. 

Monday morning, CAIR accompanied the student and her family to the school for a series of meetings with the principal, representatives from the Baltimore County Public Schools’ Office of Social Studies and teachers involved in the incident. 

The focus of the discussion was the inappropriate use of content that was not related to the Office of Social Studies curriculum, peer-to-peer aggression and bullying, and inadequate response by a school administrator who allegedly witnessed the bullying and failed to act to protect the Muslim students. 

Administrators worked diligently throughout the day Monday with the impacted students, family and CAIR to identify areas for improvement, discuss disciplinary consequences and draft a comprehensive action plan that contains elements designed to bridge the gaps, reaffirm the values of diversity, equity and inclusion in the school place, and prevent such an incident from occurring again. 

“Every child deserves a learning experience that is nurturing and inclusive of their respective identities,” said CAIR Director of Maryland Outreach Zainab Chaudry. “School systems around the country are grappling with incorporating complex topics in the curriculum while preserving the core value of diversity. CAIR applauds the Muslim students for their courage in speaking up, and we acknowledge Principal Elmendorf and the administrative staff at Catonsville Middle School for demonstrating how together we can collectively transform a potentially traumatic experience for children into a teaching moment that benefits both students and educators.”  

She noted that last October, CAIR marked National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month with the release of an anti-bullying guide for Muslim parents and students.

CAIR’s guide, titled “Bias and Bullying: Empowering Muslim Children in the Age of Islamophobia,” provides key recommendations for families and communities to help stop the spread of bigotry, hate and Islamophobia in schools. The Washington-based civil rights organization’s guide also offers a five-step checklist for “What to Do If You Are Bullied at School” and “Know Your Rights” materials for Muslim students in Arabic, Bengali, Bosnian, Farsi, Somali, and Urdu.

SEE: CAIR Anti-Bullying Guide

“After hearing what happened to my sister at school, my family knew we had to take action,” said the adult sister of one of the students. “CAIR immediately stepped in to come speak with us and explain how we can take action. The meeting with the school authorities was a success. The principal listened to the students and created a plan to bring change. We as a family are relieved and are confident in sending our child back to school because of the outcome.” 

In a statement to CAIR, School Principal Dr. Douglas C. Elmendorf, Ed.D. said in part: 

“At Catonsville Middle School, we are proud of our diverse student population and strive to create an inclusive environment where everyone feels respected and connected. We continue to work with BCPS staff and our community partners to ensure we are promoting equity, inclusivity and critical thinking in classrooms. Catonsville middle looks forward to continuing collaboration with our community to ensure all students can be globally competitive in our culturally rich society.”

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.

La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.


CONTACT: CAIR Director of Maryland Outreach Zainab Chaudry,, 410-971-6062

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