The school district did not describe what happened, but said staff are suspended while it conducts a full investigation into the case.
Mohammed Zubi, a senior at Ridgefield Memorial High School, said the class was working on a project last Wednesday and he reached out to ask if students could have more time to complete the assignment when the assistant teacher reportedly replied, ” We do “not negotiate with terrorists.”
“I look around, without 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 teacher had said, and she confirmed that she heard the same thing.
Zubi, 17, said the assistant teacher came up to him a few minutes later, patted him on the back and said he did not think so. “In my head I’m just like that, how else could he have meant that?” said Zubi.
The Ridgefield School District issued a statement Sunday saying the district “has absolutely no tolerance for any form of discrimination against any students or staff.”
In the statement, Interim Superintendent of Ridgefield Public Schools Letizia Pantoliano said the district “cannot legally comment on staff or student cases” but wants the public to know that “the district immediately suspended the employee while it is conducting a full investigation. “
CNN’s several attempts to reach the assistant teacher were not returned from Monday.
Pantoliano also said the school district notified law enforcement and asked for their help in the case, saying: “The district fully intends to pursue all legal remedies against the staff.”
Ridgefield Police Chief Thomas Gallagher told CNN on Monday that the case was “referred back to the original agency” as Ridgefield Police found no crime associated with the incident.
Maksut said CAIR New Jersey offers Ridgefield School District diversity training to its teachers and staff to help combat Islamophobia and bullying. “Education about Islam and Muslims for educators is necessary because even 20 years after 9/11, these ugly stereotypes continue to emerge in our classroom, and that is unacceptable,” Maksut told CNN on 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 Monday. “I want a public apology to me and my family.”
CNN’s Laura Studley contributed to this report.
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