Justice

Muslim Student Sues School for Alleged Racist Bullying

August 18th 2016

By:
Lucy Tiven

A lawsuit filed by 12-year-old Pakistani-American student Nashwan Uppal is spurring conversation about discrimination Muslim students at school.

Nashwan — who has a learning disorder and social disabilities — alleges that the day after he was bullied by his peers in the cafeteria, administrators at East Islip Middle School, in Long Island, New York, interrogated him aggressively about "if he was a terrorist" and intimidated him into writing a letter pledging his allegiance to ISIS.

“[Assistant Principal Jason] Stanton repeatedly asked Nashwan if he was a terrorist, and if he made bombs in his house,” the complaint reads, according to the New York Post. "When he said no, an increasingly irate Stanton allegedly bellowed, 'Don’t lie to us!'"

From the New York Post:

"Officials eventually let him call his mother, Nubaisha Amar, who was told her son had pledged allegiance to ISIS and was going to blow up the school. Cops escorted mother and son back to their home before searching the entire house and concluding he was no threat. But Uppal was suspended for a week for 'criminal activity.'"

“The defendants trampled on . . . Nashwan’s civil rights, berated and humiliated him by forcing Nashwan to confess to crimes which he did not commit while ignoring the fact that he was incessantly bullied and had known social, language and learning disabilities,” Uppal's attorney David Antwork told the New York Post.

Uppal is reportedly suing East Islip Middle School for $25 million. ATTN: reached out to East Islip Middle School and the East Islip School district; they declined to comment.

This is not the first time an alleged case of Islamophobia in a school has made national headlines.

In Septmeber 2015, 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed was taken from school in handcuffs, after his teachers thought a homemade clock he invented was a bomb.

Months earlier, a Florida teacher was suspended for five days after a 14-year-old Muslim student alleged that she called him a “raghead Taliban,” the Miami Herald reported.

In May 2016, a California high school "misprinted" the name of a Muslim student as "Isis Phillips," spurring mass outrage on social media.

Though these stories are particularly horrifying, it isn't uncommon for Muslim students to face discrimination from teachers and school administrators.

In a 2014 CAIR study of American Muslim students in California, a staggering 20 percent of students surveyed said that they had experienced discrimination from school staff members, the Daily Beast reports. Over half of the students surveyed were bullied by fellow-students based on their religious identity, the study reports.

In January, the U.S. Education Department published a letter urging schools to protect students against harassment and discrimination due to rising anti-Muslim and anti-refugee sentiments, the Washington Post reported.

“A focus on these protections, while always essential, is particularly important amid international and domestic events that create an urgent need for safe spaces for students,” the letter read. It asserted that likely targets of bullying, harassment and discrimination were "those who are, or are perceived to be, Syrian, Muslim, Middle Eastern, or Arab, as well as those who are Sikh, Jewish, or students of color," according to the Post.

[h/t Mic]