By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — A protest led by residents, community members and some students included signs that read “stop bullying now” and “we love teachers but not bullies” after a Stout Middle School student reported racist comments were made by a teacher regarding her Muslim heritage.
The 13-year-old eighth-grader who wears a hijab claims the teacher first told her on Sept. 23, “Are you an American? Do you want to be an American? Why don’t you go back to where you came from? You come here and get free food and free education; why aren’t you grateful?” according to an American-Arab Muslim and Minorities Advocacy League letter to Dearborn Public Schools Supt. Glenn Maleyko.
The next day, the teacher reportedly sat on the student’s desk and hung his legs in front of her, according to the Oct. 2 AMAL letter. A written statement was submitted to the administration by the student and a meeting was held with Principal Gregory Oke, the student and her mother, and the teacher.
“The teacher didn’t deny the comments at a meeting with the principal and her mother was told the remarks were misinterpreted,” the student told WDIV Channel 4.
“I was shocked,” the student’s mother said. “I was like, ‘It’s not a misunderstanding. He should not have questioned her identity. She is an American. She was born here. I was born here.’”
Oke posted an update on the Stout blog Oct. 9 stating that the school district continues to work with all parties involved to conclude this investigation and then work toward determining the appropriate actions to be taken.
“The district has a process in place and will continue to honor that process,” the post read. “The teacher involved has been placed on administrative leave pending the completion of the investigation. Administrative leave is part of the district’s normal protocol and is not an indication of a specific finding since the investigation is still on-going. As a school community, we are dedicated to ensuring our students are honored and respected.”
AMAL Executive Director Fatina Abdrabboh continued in her letter by saying that merely transferring the student out of the teacher’s classroom does not solve the problem,
“Bigots often exhibit this pattern of behavior,” she wrote. “They spew their hatred, then bully students who are brave enough to speak up. This straight-A student should be commended for her strength. Sadly, as news has spread of her reporting of the incidents, her morale has been sapped and has demonstrated a decline in her performance.”
According to the AMAL letter, the organization conducted a preliminary investigation into the teacher which revealed multiple “outrageous” incidents with this teacher.
“These include the great lengths he has gone to criticize and condemn sensitivities of Muslim and Arab girls,” Abdrabboh wrote. “While a complete one conducted by the district will undoubtedly reveal more, the teacher has stated the following, immigrants have worsened the quality of our schools; these English Language Learners have a problem complying with rules, immigrants abuse and ‘milk’ the system; and only in Dearborn do girls wear the hijab. Why don’t they take if off their head.”
The DPS district did not responded to questions asked about the alleged comments made or ongoing investigation into the situation by press time.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])