An 11-year-old immigrant from Somalia, in partnership with the American Civil Liberties Union, has filed an official complaint regarding multiple alleged instances of harassment by his teacher, Faye Myles. According to ACLU documents, in one of the cases where the Phoenix teacher allegedly harassed the Muslim refugee student, Myles reportedly told the student, "I can’t wait until Trump is elected. He’s going to deport all you Muslims." Statements like these, along with an alleged choking, accusations of the student being a future terrorist, and overall "disfavorable treatment" due to the student's "faith and nationality" are painting a very worrisome picture of an overwhelmingly negative experience that many Muslim students are subjected to each day in schools across the country.
A lawyer representing The Academy of Excellence, a charter school, has denied all harassment allegations, saying: "Our position is not that these claims are mistaken or people may have misremembered. This is a fabrication."
The student, called A.A. in the ACLU's filings, first immigrated with his family from Somalia in 2012. His experience at The Academy of Excellence since then has been contentious. "One day, when he continued to talk to a classmate, she walked over to him, grabbed him by the neck, and choked him tightly until his eyes began to water from the pain," reads the ACLU's complaint against Myles. The complaint also alleges that, upon showing her students a video of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Myles allegedly informed A.A.: "That's going to be you." These direct instances were said to have been matched by micro-agressions such as Myles allegedly disallowing A.A. from praying at school.
A.A.'s mother Asli Noo reported the alleged multiple instances of wrongdoing to the school's director, but was told that her allegations were investigated and were then found to be untrue. Noor claims that A.A. was then forced to withdraw from the school along with his brother this past January.
These allegations come to light as Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiments in schools have risen dramatically, just in the past year. Many blame Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as the root cause for this phenomenon; Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric, encapsulated in his promise of a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States," has seeped into classrooms, normalizing this type of hate-speech.
Studies have also reported an uptick in bullying based on religion, with one set of research finding:
Two-thirds of the teachers reported that students—mainly immigrants, children of immigrants and Muslims—have expressed concerns or fears about what might happen to them or their families after the election.
The ACLU is asking the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education to investigate the complaints against Myles and The Academy of Excellence, seeking evidence for A.A.'s experiences. Finding truth to any of these allegations would mean confirming the school's conscious effort to cover up blatant discrimination against a student — discrimination that has amassed in the context of a culture currently fixated on exclusivity rather than understanding.