CAMBRIDGE — A Muslim civil rights and advocacy group is claiming Dorchester school officials failed to protect a Muslim student from “Islamophobic” attacks, but the county’s school superintendent says the teen’s mother has refused to talk with the school system and is working through an attorney.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), in a June 11 press release, said Cambridge-South Dorchester High School staffers failed to protect the 15-year-old student of Moroccan descent.
The mother reported a pattern of physical and verbal assaults against her child to school officials, and they “downplayed the gravity of the incidents,” according to CAIR.
CAIR also said the school “suggested the pattern of abuse was ‘friendly banter’” and offered to “move the Muslim student to a different class.”
After proposing the student’s relocation as a solution to the alleged bullying, CAIR said the school “failed to keep the [child’s] mother fully apprised of developments.”
DCPS issued this statement from Dorchester County Public Schools Superintendent Diana Mitchell:
“We are aware of allegations made by the parent of a Cambridge-South Dorchester High School student. As the parent has refused to discuss the matter with Dorchester County Public Schools and is now working through an attorney, the matter has been referred to our attorney. We are unable to comment due to student privacy laws.”
CAIR said it is seeking a “high-priority” meeting with school officials and has called for Mitchell and James Bell, supervisor of student services, to take action.
CAIR has asked Mitchell and Bell to “appropriately and immediately discipline students perpetrating this abusive behavior” and to “mandate training for school officials who have failed to address the mother’s pleas for adequate intervention and assistance.”
Zainab Chaudry, CAIR’s Maryland outreach director, said schools “must be safe spaces where all students are protected from harassment and intimidation.”
“School systems have an added responsibly to provide support to marginalized students whose identities make them more vulnerable to being targets,” Chaudry said. “It is unacceptable that a high school freshman may now be at risk for self-harm because of a toxic learning environment that was inadequately addressed by those in positions of authority.”
These allegations come as current C-SD principal and newly appointed DCPS Interim Superintendent David Bromwell prepares to step into his new role on July 1.
In a letter to the community, dated June 2, Bromwell wrote that his mission as interim superintendent is to “maintain and grow a rigorous teaching and learning environment that provides every student with a sense of belonging while helping students grow intellectually, emotionally and socially.”
Bromwell also listed safety as one of four “areas of focus” he plans to address during his year-long term.
On its website, CAIR says its “mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.”