Representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union are calling for two federal investigations after an 11-year-old Muslim student in Arizona complained that he was the target of discrimination and harassment—by his teacher.
In a two separate complaints filed on October 28th, the ACLU claims that a student identified as "A.A." was "abused, physically assaulted, and singled out by his teacher because of his religion and nationality" while enrolled at the Academy of Excellence, a public charter school in Phoenix, last year. A.A.'s family, who are refugees from Somalia, allegedly complained to the school about A.A.'s treatment, to no avail.
According to the complaints, the teacher—identified as Faye Myles—is alleged to have grabbed A.A. by the neck and, in an attempt to prevent him from reporting the incident, later told him: "if you tell your mom, watch what happens next."
Myles allegedly continued to harass A.A., comparing him to the 9/11 attackers and ignoring his efforts to participate in class, according to the complaint. The final straw, however, allegedly came in late January, 2016. The ACLU complaint states that A.A. had raised his hand to answer a question in the classroom, when Myles "snapped at him, in front of the entire class."
"All you Muslims think you're so smart," Myles allegedly told A.A. “I can’t wait until Trump is elected. He’s going to deport all you Muslims. Muslims shouldn’t be given visas. They’ll probably take away your visa and deport you. You’re going to be the next terrorist, I bet.”
To make matters worse, A.A.'s classmates reportedly began echoing Myles' abuse on the bus ride home.
After his family complained to the school, they allegedly were presented "voluntary" withdrawal forms for A.A. and his sister, who was also enrolled at the time. Seeing no alternative, the family pulled their children from the school.
Now, the ACLU is calling for investigations into the Academy of Excellence from both the Justice Department, and the Department of Education under Title IV and Title VI, respectively.
On its website, the Academy states that its mission is to "educate all students, including at-risk students, to become a lifelong learner able to function successfully in a global society." Faye Myles is currently listed as a Math and Science teacher at the school.
Academy director Eula Dean told me she was meeting with school administrators this afternoon, and would release a statement regarding the allegations by the end of the day. I will update this story with that statement once it is made available.
Myles did not return a request for comment.
While the alleged harassment faced by A.A. may be shocking, it is, unfortunately, part of a growing trend, dubbed the "Trump Effect" by the Southern Poverty Law Center. According to a report published by the SPLC in April, "teachers have noted an increase in bullying, harassment and intimidation of students whose races, religions or nationalities have been the verbal targets of candidates on the campaign trail."
While the SPLC's report focuses specifically on bullying of and by students, it seems that the Trump effect may extend to teachers, as well.