San Diego- Ismaeel Fadel, a former student at Madison High School, was subjected to a new form of classroom bullying defined as national origins discrimination. In class, 14-year-old Fedel looked up to see the words, “Ish is a terrorist,” accompanied by images of a plane heading towards two buildings on the whiteboard. Laughter and methods of taunting towards Fadel filled the room as he ran out in despair.
Fadel came forward and explained that “all the teachers care about is getting their paycheck,” rather than prioritizing their students’ well-being. There is truth to this statement as he was recommended to go to anger management classes. The perception that the victims need to make a change rather than those perpetuating the hatred is allowing further aggravation of a broken system.
Bill Cunningham, an academic support teacher, took Fadel’s case to Principal Richard Nash seeking administrative action, but instead Nash said to drop the matter. In hopes of preventing further coverage on the story and to silence Cunningham, Nash threatened to remove him from his position in the institution. The lack of administrative action seems to be rampant in the San Diego Unified Shool District due to teachers and administrators looking out for themselves and ignoring the needs of the students.
This form of slander and bigotry against Muslim students within the education system further contributes to the bullying that students already face. This 2017 incident has spotlighted the holes in the San Diego education system, and the relevant tools it lacks to counter these incidents to vicious bullying. The greatest concern for the education system in Fadel’s case was the administration’s efforts to reject that the event even took place.
A federal investigation gives greater insight into the reasons San Diego residents should be wary of the current system. There was no response from the district and school board. This further exhibits the blindness towards the grievance procedures for reports that fall under the classification of harassment on the basis of national origin. Without addressing the inherent flaws in the system, the SDUSD is allowing for the continuation of bullying and discrimination against its students.
The San Diego Unified School District has agreed to implement change as expressed through a statement that explains its anti-harassment and discrimination policies. However, through the incident of Fadel and from Cunningham’s insight, the district needs to begin to put their rhetoric into action in order to reach a legitimate resolution.
It is time to stop hiding from the facts and address the systemic issues that continue to harm our students. The district must stop avoiding the root causes of bullying and address the administrative inaction that exacerbates the issue by implementing real change that will benefit the students.