The ACLU sent complaints to the Department of Education and the Department of Justice alleging a charter school teacher told an 11-year-old Somali immigrant that she couldn’t wait for Donald Trump to be elected because Trump is “going to deport all you Muslims.”
The ACLU said that the child, who was enrolled at the Academy of Excellence in Phoenix, Arizona, was “abused, physically assaulted and singled out by his teacher because of his religion and nationality.”
The complaints allege that the child, identified as A.A., began experiencing “disfavorable treatment” at the hands of his teacher, Faye Myles, “because of his faith and nationality.” The complaint also said the school covered for Myles and did not properly investigate repeated complaints — and forced the child’s mother to have A.A. and his sibling withdraw from the school.
Faye did not respond to BuzzFeed News’ request for comment. Lonnie WIlliams, a lawyer representing Academy of Excellence, told BuzzFeed News: “Our position is not that these claims are mistaken or people may have misremembered. This is a fabrication.”
In one instance, the complaint alleged that Myles grabbed A.A.’s neck, “choked him tightly until his eyes began to water from the pain,” and later told the child, “If you tell your mom, watch what happens next.”
A.A.’s mother, who came to the US from Somalia in 2012 as a resettled refugee, went to report the incident, but Myles “barged into the room and began to argue loudly,” denying she had assaulted the boy, according to the complaint. After Myles left, the school’s director promised to investigate.
Other incidents in the complaints, spanning months in the 2015-2016 school year, include instances where Myles denied A.A’s request to pray during recess, refused to call on A.A. when he raised his hand in class and told the boy to “shut up” when other students were allowed to talk during “downtime.”
In yet another alleged instance, while the class watched a video clip of of September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Myles allegedly suggested that A.A. was going to become a terrorist.
The complaint stated the last incident occurred in January, when A.A. was ignored by Myles when he raised his hand. When A.A. raised his hand again, that’s when Myles “snapped at him, in front of the entire class,” the complaint alleges.
“All you Muslims think you are so smart. I can’t wait until Trump is elected. He’s going to deport all you Muslims,” Myles allegedly said. “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,” Myles allegedly said.
These instances, the complaint says, eventually led other students to harass A.A., calling him a “terrorist" and “accusing him of planning to blow up the bus.”
Williams went on to say that A.A.’s mother never came to report the choking, as the complaint says, and that she only did so after the alleged incident. Williams also categorically said that the entire issue is an attempt by the victim's mother and the ACLU for money, a counter-allegation also released in a press release by Williams.
Williams, the lawyer representing the school, added that a school investigation into the verbal abuse allegedly by Myles was launched and eventually closed when the school did not find any evidence.
Williams provided a police report, from February, said that the allegation by A.A. and his mother of discrimination and choking were “unfounded.” According to the report, A.A., when interviewed by a police officer a month after leaving the school, said that Myles had choked him, showed the officer how she did it, and also detailed much of the verbal discrimination described in the ACLU complaint.
“He placed both hands around his neck,” A.A. gestured to the officer after being asked if Myles ever hit him, according to the police report. “I then asked him if it hurt, he said ‘Yes, and my eyes turned red.’ I asked if he hard a hard time breathing, he said “Yes.”
Myles, who was also interviewed by the police, said that A.A. was “very disruptive,” and at one point called A.A. “manipulative” when asked why A.A. would make such allegations, according to the police report.
Myles denied choking the boy or ever making statements about the boy’s faith. The police also interviewed the school’s director and special education director, who told the investigating officer that A.A was “discharged” for “non-compliance issues.”
But the ACLU also alleges that A.A.’s mother was told by the school’s special education director to “get your kids out of here” and “I don’t want them here.” The child’s mother was handed a voluntary withdrawal form for both A.A. and his sibling, while the school’s director “demanded” that she sign. “Not believing she had any other choice, Ms. Noor signed the forms,” the ACLU complaint reads.
The ACLU also addressed the police report findings alleging that the school “covered up” Myles’ conduct. The complaint also says the police report was “cursory and inadequate” and relied “solely on the misrepresentations offered by” Myles and the school’s directors, without interviewing any children in the class.
“The Academy’s discriminatory practices are especially troubling in the light of the renewed wave of anti-Muslim bigotry and xenophobia that has washed across the country recently,” the ACLU complaint said. “Unfortunately, this fear-mongering is infiltrating our public schools, leading school officials and students to target Muslims and immigrants like our clients.”
A recent study by the Council on American-Islamic Relations in California found that 55% of Muslim American students in the state experienced some form of bullying based on their religion. That number is twice the national average found by the US Department of Health and Human Services.