(PHILADELPHIA, PA, 4/15/2022) – The Philadelphia chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Philadelphia), today welcomed positive steps by Delaware’s Capital School District, where teachers and students made bigoted remarks targeting a black Muslim middle school student.
CAIR-Philadelphia will conduct a cultural sensitivity training for the district in partnership with the local community and allies.
The student said she has been bullied by teachers and students ever since she began wearing an Islamic headscarf, or hijab, to school. She also said teachers made offensive comments about her fasting during Ramadan.
In response to the incident, CAIR-Philadelphia Education and Outreach Director Dr. Ahmet Tekelioglu met with the student’s family, representatives of the Islamic Society of Central Delaware, school district officials, and family advocate Ashley Christopher, Esq. CAIR-Philadelphia and its partners urged the district administration to take swift and concrete steps to address the incident.
Dr. Vilicia Cade, the CEO and Superintendent of Capital School District responded to the incidents by stating that intolerance is “unacceptable” and that appropriate action will be taken. The district has opened an investigation.
Capital School District also posted an official statement on its website, noting:
“An incident occurred at Central Middle School in which a female Muslim student was unable to freely exercise religious choice which does not reflect the core values of the Capital School District. We condemn, disavow, and apologize for any behavior that is not aligned to our vision to spur the audacity of hope as we support our staff and educate our students.
“Any behavior that suppresses freedom of choice in religious practices is unacceptable. To this, the Capital School District is working with the family of the student, our staff, the local community, and CAIR of Philadelphia to accelerate our ongoing efforts to harvest a culturally sensitive environment that encourages behaviors that embrace diversity and supports practices that safeguard inclusion.”
“Faith-based bullying is completely unacceptable, and is particularly harmful when it comes from teachers,” said CAIR-Philadelphia Education and Outreach Director Dr. Ahmet Selim Tekelioglu. “We welcome the investigative steps by the district as well as the process of healing and restorative justice that Dr. Cade courageously detailed in our meetings. CAIR-Philadelphia looks forward to working with the family, Capital School District, the Islamic Society of Central Delaware, and other partners to customize a training and community building program to ensure that all students experience a safe learning environment.”
Ms. Kristina Sellers, the mother of the impacted student said:
“We are grateful for the support of CAIR-Philadelphia. My goal is to spread awareness of the incident, create an environment for children to freely express their religion and dispel negative stereotypes of the Muslim faith. We look forward to collaborating with CAIR-Philadelphia and the Capital School District to develop impactful programming and achieve our goal.”
In a statement, The Shura of the Islamic Society of Central Delaware noted, “An incident like this should not have happened in the first place. We are glad that under Dr. Cade’s leadership Capital School District is taking swift action. We look forward to working with CAIR-Philadelphia, Dr. Cade, and her team to proactively tackle any potential problems. We strongly believe in Dr. Cade’s leadership and look forward to a future full of love for all District students.”
CAIR-Philadelphia plans to hold a student listening session at Islamic Society of Central Delaware after Ramadan to field positive and negative experiences by Muslim students of the district.
Research has demonstrated that Muslims face bullying at twice the rate of the national average. CAIR National’s 2021 Report, Resilience in the Face of Hate, documented 114 school-related incidents ranging from bullying, Islamophobic school curriculum, and holiday denials.
CAIR offers a booklet, called “An Educator’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices,” designed to help school officials provide a positive learning environment for Muslim students.
CAIR and the American Muslim community stand in solidarity with all those challenging antisemitism, anti-Black racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and white supremacy.
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-Philadelphia Education and Outreach Director, Ahmet Selim Tekelioglu, PhD 617-401-5397; firstname.lastname@example.org