A Muslim teenager in New Jersey says he was left “in shock” after his teacher compared him to “terrorists” last week.
The Ridgefield School District — located roughly 15 miles outside of New York City — says it “immediately” suspended the unidentified teacher as it conducts a “full investigation” into the allegations.
The district did not immediately respond to a request for comment from McClatchy News.
During math class, senior Mohammed Zubi, 17, says he asked the teacher at Ridgefield Memorial High School if he could finish his work at home, according to WABC-TV.
“He responded saying, ‘we don’t negotiate with terrorists,’ so I look around in shock, there’s people laughing, and there’s other people in shock, and I turn around and ask my friend, ‘did he really just say that?’ and she said yes,” Zubi told WABC-TV.
Another senior in the class, Vuk Tomasese, told the TV station the teacher approached Zubi, who is captain of the school’s soccer team, when making the alleged comment.
Zubi’s older brothers previously graduated from the high school, where his mom also worked, WABC reported.
Later, the teacher is accused of telling Zubi after the first period class Wednesday that he “didn’t mean it like that,” according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ New Jersey chapter (CAIR-NJ.)
Executive Director of CAIR-NJ Selaedin Maksut called for “appropriate corrective measures” after an investigation in a statement.
“This type of insensitive language by an authority figure is unacceptable because it perpetuates stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims,” Maksut said.
The school district said it notified law enforcement of the alleged comment, adding that “the Ridgefield School District has absolutely no tolerance for any sort of discrimination against any student or staff member.”
“The District fully intends to pursue any and all legal remedies against the staff member as any discriminatory conduct has absolutely no place in our District,” the statement read.
Although the Ridgefield Police Department was made aware of the incident, Police Chief Thomas Gallagher said his department referred it back to the school, noting the allegations weren’t criminal, according to NJ.com.
CAIR-NJ says it has offered the Ridgefield School District diversity training for its teachers and staff “to help combat Islamophobia and bullying.”