New Jersey school district suspends assistant teacher who allegedly told student ‘we don’t negotiate with terrorists’


The school district did not describe what happened, but said the staff member was suspended while he conducted a full investigation into the case.

Mohammed Zubi, a student at Ridgefield Memorial High School, said the class was working on a project last Wednesday and he raised his hand to ask if the students could have more time to complete the assignment when the assistant teacher reportedly responded by saying, “We don’t negotiate with terrorists.

“I look around, at a loss for words, completely shocked,” Zubi told CNN. He said the whole class heard the exchange and he asked the girl behind him to make sure that was what the assistant said, and she confirmed that she heard the same. .

Zubi, 17, said the teaching assistant approached him a few minutes later, patted him on the back and said he didn’t mean it that way. “In my head I’m just thinking, how else could he mean that?” Zubi said.

The Ridgefield School District issued a statement on Sunday saying the district “absolutely does not tolerate any kind of discrimination against any student or staff member.”

In the statement, Ridgefield Public Schools Acting Superintendent Letizia Pantoliano said the district “cannot legally comment on matters relating to staff or students,” but wants the public to know that “the district has immediately suspended the staff member while they conduct a full investigation. “

Multiple attempts by CNN to reach the assistant teacher were not returned on Monday.

Pantoliano also said the school district informed law enforcement and asked for their help with this, saying, “The district fully intends to pursue all legal remedies against the staff member.”

Ridgefield Police Chief Thomas Gallagher told CNN on Monday that the case was “referred to the original agency” because Ridgefield Police found no crimes associated with the incident.

“This kind of callous language from an authority figure is unacceptable because it perpetuates stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims,” ​​said the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in New Jersey, Selaedin Maksut. declaration Friday.

Maksut said CAIR New Jersey offers Ridgefield School District diversity training to its teachers and staff to address Islamophobia and bullying. “Education around Islam and Muslims for educators is necessary because even 20 years after 9/11, these ugly stereotypes continue to appear in our classroom, and this is unacceptable,” Maksut told CNN Monday.

Zubi said he did not return to school for nearly a week after the incident. “I went to school today for the first time,” Zubi said on Monday. “I want a public apology for myself and my family.”

CNN’s Laura Studley contributed to this report.

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