Florida Teacher Calls Lebanese Student And Boy Scout “Raghead Taliban” For Wearing A Hoodie

via Facebook
via Facebook

Think about how you would react and feel if these statements were made about you as you walked into a classroom, or raised your hand to answer a teacher’s question:

“Ah no! The Taliban is here!”
“OK the Taliban, what is the answer?”
“Let’s ask the Taliban.” 

Florida teacher, Maria Valdes, said these horrendous things, and many more, to student Deyab-Houssein Wardani. Fourteen-year-old Wardani was frequently harassed by Ms. Valdes for some time because of his Lebanese ethnicity and Islamic faith. Wardani finally told his parents about the incidents after Valdes referred to him as a “raghead Taliban” one day when he walked into her French class wearing a hoodie. Wardani didn’t even know what the “Taliban” was until Valdes issued the slur. The student and his parents brought up the issue with the school principal who, as Local 10 News reports, offered only a “half-hearted apology” while “shrugging and rolling her eyes.”

The allegations were finally addressed on March 17th at a local school board meeting where the board suspended Maria Valdes for five days without pay. The punishment seems to many observers, as well as to the Wardani family, as absurdly lax in light of the persistent pattern of blatant ethnocentrism and racism. After the decision, the Wardani family posted the following statement on a Facebook page created to rally support for Deyab-Houssein Wardani:

“Good afternoon friends,

The Board has voted unanimously on a “very progressive 5 days vacation” for Confessed Racist Maria Valdes. Then they spent few minutes complimenting themselves. Then I spoke for 3 minutes and then Mr Runci rebutted a long winded “unrehearsed” speech.

The message is clear to all the bad teachers out there. Do whatever you want and get a vacation. Parents and Teachers I am calling on you one more time. Please, for the sake of our children DO SOMETHING. Send Mr Runci and the Board a different message.

Otherwise the next nationality and religion will be yours.

I am not going anywhere.

Regards,
The Wardani Family.”

Teachers have a phenomenally important role in our society. They don’t just teach math, history, and science. From an early age they are responsible for teaching children the difference between right and wrong. They are responsible for teaching ethics, citizenship, and how to coexist in a world with billions of other citizens. In this regard, Mrs. Maria Valdes has failed miserably, and has set a piss poor example for our kids.

My most vivid memories of teachers are ones where they stood up for those kids who were “different”. My second grade teacher defended me when I preferred playing with stuffed animals rather than action figures. She did this in lieu of the fact that I was an annoying brat who talked back to her and threw tantrums over nothing almost every other day. She did it because it was her job, and she took pride in it. These lessons of inclusion and multiculturalism need to continue being taught through high school and beyond. If pre-teens and teenagers see their teacher singling someone out, they are going to be given the impression that that is okay. That racism is okay. That sexism is okay. That run-of-the-mill bullying is okay. And it isn’t.

via Facebook
via Facebook

People say things they shouldn’t sometimes. A bad word might slip, an uninclusive comment might pass, or a micro aggression might come out. That’s life, it happens. If followed by a prompt apology it should be received with forgiveness and a second chance. But that isn’t what happened here. Nobody has taken responsibility. Maria Valdes hasn’t given any public apology and she hides from greater punishment from behind a union provision. As a matter of fact, young Deyab-Houssein Wardani reports to the Daily Mail that he is now getting a “strange vibe” from his teacher “as if she doesn’t want [him] there.” There was a persistent pattern of abuse that still has not been adequately addressed. Valdes’ punishment is similar to what would be given to an eleven year old who said the same comments, and as such, is completely inadequate.

Education is the cure for a myriad of world problems. Education will unlock the doors to curing poverty, diseases, hunger, and yes, even bigotry. We need educators who are firmly committed to equipping our children to do just that, and by that metric, Maria Valdes falls far far short. TC mark

featured image – via Twitter – CBS

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