A Pennsylvania school district is investigating after a Black Muslim mother accused of her son’s middle school of violating him in front of his class.
Taliyah Holmes says her son, 11-year-old Jahiir was caught using his phone during school dismissal when a sixth grade math teacher took it away. Instead of giving the child the phone back, Holmes said the teacher made her son get on his knees to beg for it.
“He said, ‘Oh you want your phone back? I need you to beg for it, I need to see tears,” Holmes told Fox 29 News. She said her son was forced to get on his knees while classmates laughed and ridiculed him. One of Jahiir’s classmates tried to stick up for him, but was yelled at.
The mother of that student called Taliyah to explain what happened before Jahiir got home from school.
Advocates supporting the family say the white teacher’s tactics are reminiscent of “buck breaking” used in slavery.
“They would take the strongest slave and break them down and try to belittle them, dehumanize them,” family advocate Nidir Muhammad said.
Holmes added that the teacher forcing Jahiir to kneel violates the family’s religious beliefs.
“Kneeling and begging is animalistic, also my religious beliefs forbids a man to kneel down to anyone but God,” she said.
Darby Township Superintendent Brenda Wynder emailed a statement to the news outlet confirming the incident is under investigation.
Holmes said she has met with district officials earlier this month and that the teacher is not currently teaching students. The school district also recently returned to virtual learning due to Covid-19.
The Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is providing legal representation to the Holmes family and has called on the school district to acknowledge the harm caused by the incident.
“These disturbing allegations are reprehensible. For a teacher to forcibly confiscate a student’s phone and then make him kneel and beg in front of the class is intolerable,” a statement from the organization reads. “The district should immediately suspend the teacher pending a full and transparent investigation and offer a public apology as it works with our office and other advocates seeking accountability.”
Reading about Black trauma can have an impact on your mental health. If you or someone you know need immediate mental health help, text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor. These additional resources are also available:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
The National Alliance on Mental Illness 1-800-950-6264
The Association of Black Psychologists 1-301-449-3082
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America 1-240-485-1001
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