ACLU: Phoenix teacher accused of targeting Muslim student because of his religion, nationality

Posted at 3:26 PM, Nov 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-02 07:54:10-04

The American Civil Liberties Union says a Somali Muslim immigrant and his sister were expelled from a Phoenix school after a sixth grade teacher allegedly discriminated against him.

The ACLU has since filed complaints with the Department of Justice and Department of Education to look into the matter.

The complaints were made against Academy of Excellence Charter School, a public charter school in Phoenix.

According to a letter sent to both state agencies, the 11-year-old student was targeted by his sixth grade teacher multiple times during the 2015-2016 school year. The letter accuses the teacher of singling out the student because of his religion and/or nationality.

On one occasion, the teacher allegedly showed a video about the Sept. 11 2001 terrorist attacks. The teacher is accused of then telling the student “That’s going to be you,” suggesting that he was to become a terrorist himself, ACLU attorney Heather Weaver wrote in a blog. 

The letter said that, during a separate incident in which the teacher was speaking about Donald Trump, she turned to the student and said, “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.”

Because of the teacher's comments alleged by the ACLU, the student was teased by classmates on the bus ride home that day and was accused of plotting to blow up the bus, calling him a "terrorist."

Additionally, the teacher is also accused of grabbing the student by his neck and choking him for talking to a peer during free time, the letter said. She then allegedly threatened the student, saying “If you tell your mom (about the abuse), watch what happens next.”

The ACLU said that when the alleged victim’s mom reached out to the school, the school director sided with the teacher, stating that she had done nothing wrong.

To force the student out of the school, the 11-year-old was accused breaking school rules by opening an emergency window on the bus. He and his sister – who’s a second grader at the same school – were expelled; effective immediately.

Other ACLU accusations against the teacher include her calling another student a “terrorist” because that student covered her face with a scarf, she alluded that multiple immigrant students were plotting in the bathroom to build a bomb, and the teacher called another student a “little African girl,” describing her hair as “nappy.”

The Academy of Excellence Charter School is refuting the claims. They've since released a statement regarding the situation, calling the allegations false.

"The Academy of Excellence Charter School Governing Board and Administration ("AOE") refutes the allegations contained in two letters from the ACLU.  Those letters, both of which are dated October 28, 2016, are devoid of any evidence and contain false and unsubstantiated allegations.

AOE conducted an internal investigation on January 25, 2016.  That investigation produced no evidence to support the claims now being made by (the teacher).  Additionally, these allegations were investigated by the Phoenix Police Department.  (The teacher) first contacted the Phoenix Police on January 28, 2016, the day her children withdrew from AOE.  At that time, her only complaint was that "she believed that her children were kicked out of our school due to their Muslim faith."  AOE has many children who practice the Muslim faith. 

It was not until February 24, 2016, that (the teacher) and her son made the allegation of 'choking.' This allegation was investigated by a Detective who found that, 'At the conclusion of the investigation, a crime in this matter was unfounded. Both suspect and witnesses provided corroborating statements, and were not consistent with the victims' statement.' This is the "cursory and inadequate" investigation the ACLU notes in the footnotes to its letters.  

Finally, if you compare the timing of events contained in the ACLU's letters and the statements made to the Police by (the teacher) and her son, they are completely different.  The difference between the statements calls into question the motive of the speaker.  AOE’s first contact from the ACLU sought a substantial monetary payment."