Family wants action after teacher allegedly insults boy

CHICAGO The child is an Arab-Muslim and says he was intimidated and isolated from classmates after the incident. On Thursday the boy, his family and Muslim leaders met with school officials about the complaint.

The incident happened last spring at the Brentano Math and Science Academy in the Logan Square community.

The teacher is no longer at the school. But the boy's family says school officials must do more to keep situations like this from happening again.

It was more than a year ago that his sixth grade teacher made the comment in class. But 13-year-old Saleh Choudhary's family is still pursuing a resolution.

It was in a history class at the Brentano Math and Science Academy in Logan Square that the teacher allegedly described a hypothetical situation in which Saleh would carry a bomb aboard a plane and blow it up.

"Saleh is the only Muslim, the only Arab in the classroom. And in using that example, she basically gave the go-ahead to all the students to begin harassing," said Christina Abraham, Council on American Islamic Relations.

His family says the boy came home from school with tears in his eyes as he described the painful harassment he faced from other students immediately afterward.

They went to the school's principal at the time, Georgette Watson, asking that the teacher be disciplined. Watson passed away later that year before she was able to resolve their concerns. Now, the family and American-Islamic leaders were meeting with the school board and a mediator to come up with a resolution. They said they want the teacher fired.

"I believe that's the most serious and harshest punishment given out and should be given out," said brother Mohammed Fahad Choudhary.

"Either she did it willingly or just completely irresponsibly. Either way, it reflects negligence to the extent that she should not be teaching in the Chicago Public Schools," said Abraham.

The family is also hoping the school will provide counseling to Saleh and sensitivity training to teachers. Late Thursday afternoon, Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan responded.

"It's very disturbing that this kind of thing would happen, and I just appreciate the family so much for stepping forward and talking to us about that, that takes courage to do that. And the only way we can make sure these things never happen again is by addressing them openly and honestly," he said.

The teacher is still working for the Chicago Public Schools but is no longer at the Brentano academy. Duncan says the board is working with the mediator to resolve the concerns. The next meeting is scheduled for late next month.

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