Stop Islamophobia and Racism at LaGuardia High School

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Duha is a 16-year-old Muslim Egyptian-American student at LaGuardia High School. Duha wears a hijab (Islamic headscarf) and is a drama student. She is the only student in her grade that wears hijab.  

Duha has faced Islamophobia at her school.  

Last year, during her physics class, Duha was called a "Terrorist!" by her teacher. Duha's nightmare was only beginning.  The teacher went on to pressure Duha to remain silent. Despite this pressure, Duha reported the incident to school administrators (an assistant principal and a guidance counselor) that same day. The school did not investigate.

The next day, the teacher continued to harass Duha. The teacher made multiple attempts to isolate Duha and eventually removed her from her AP World class for a “private conversation.” During this conversation, the teacher gave Duha a bag of chocolate in an attempt to induce her silence. Later that day, the teacher excused his conduct by stating that he called Duha a terrorist because that is how the movies portray “brown people, Arabs, and Muslims.”

Duha’s mother and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, New York (CAIR-NY) filed a formal complaint (online and via letter), but no investigative steps were taken for several months and the teacher continues to teach.  

As a result, Duha has been through counseling, her schoolwork has been impacted, and she continues to suffer from the incident. After a year of pain and suffering, Duha courageously went public with her experience. She details the traumatic impact her teacher’s conduct has had on her life in this Instagram video:  https://www.instagram.com/p/CIevJiClT25/.

Allegedly, other students have also experienced racism from this same teacher. For example, as an “icebreaker” activity, this teacher allegedly went around his classroom insulting his students and targeting their religion or ethnicity. He allegedly guessed that a student was Jewish and stated that his guess was “because of your nose,” an anti-Semitic trope. During the same “icebreaker,” a student identified herself as Albanian to which this instructor allegedly responded, “Albania is a communist country.” Simply put, this instructor has no place in the classroom.

Additionally, last year, the school preformed an extremely offensive dance concert featuring the Islamic athaan (Muslim call to prayer). Almost immediately, the instructor was informed of the offensive, sacrilegious, and degrading nature of the dance. The athaan is used as the call to prayer and preparing a Muslim's soul and body for a spiritual meeting with God five times a day.  This dance production makes a pun and mockery of the very essence of the purity of the athaan. A year and a half later, the video is still on the school’s official website. The video is entitled “Inchallah” and can be found here: http://danceatlaguardiahs.org/2019-graduation-dance-concert/.

In response to widespread racism among students and administrators at LaGuardia High School, students have come together to group the Young Idealists--a student lead movement to combat racism in school and advocate for and support victims of racism.

Administrative bullying and bias should have no place in school. It is shameful that the Department of Education continues to stand by this physics teacher. The DOE must protect students not educators that abuse and traumatic their students.  

Students, like Duha, need your help to ensure that LaGuardia High School is free of Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and racism. Send a letter email to Mayor de Blasio and Department of Education Chancellor Carranza demanding the Department of Education to (1) investigate LaGuardia High School for its failure to adequately respond to incidents of Islamophobia and anti-Black racism; (2) immediately suspend and remove the Physics teacher from the classroom for repeated acts of Islamophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism; (3) create a streamlined investigative process regarding similar incidents; (4) implement effective bias and anti-discrimination trainings for staff; and (5) implement effective bias and anti-bullying educational material for students.