ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WXYZ) — A complaint filed Saturday to the U.S. Department of Education against Ann Arbor Public Schools alleges a middle school Palestinian Muslim student was called a terrorist by a school counselor.
The complaint was filed by the Council on American Islamic Relations Michigan Chapter (CAIR- MI), which says the incident is one of a growing number in public schools and universities across the country.
The complaint was filed over the weekend, but the incident allegedly happened on Nov. 14 at Tappan Middle School. The family says they spent weeks trying to resolve it with the district but after making no progress, they contacted CAIR.
The student's older brother interviewed with 7 Action News but asked to remain anonymous to protect his brother from further harassment.
“My brother cries every morning begging not to go to school because he doesn't feel welcomed and safe to go to school,” the older brother said.
He says he first learned of the incident after his eighth-grade brother came home from school in tears. The 12-year-old said a counselor called him a terrorist.
“I asked him, 'What was the context?' He said, 'I asked her for a drink of water and she said no,'” the older brother recalled. "He asked 'Why not?' And she said, 'I don't negotiate with terrorists.' And then she doubled down and said it again.”
The 12-year-old, who is Muslim and Palestinian, pushed back on the comment. Besides an apology from the principal, the family says the district took little to no action as the counselor remained at school.
“If the teachers are not held accountable for their racist remarks and actions, what kind of message are we sending to the rest of the teachers and students?" the older brother said.
CAIR-MI staff attorney Amy Doukoure said the organization filed the formal complaint on the family’s behalf.
“We filed the Department of Education complaint and we're asking them to investigate not only this incident, but other incidents that have been raised,” Doukoure said.
She says they've seen a 300% increase in hate and discrimination reports since Oct. 7, with nearly half taking place at public schools or universities.
“We're asking Ann Arbor Public Schools to do their duty in ensuring that their middle school students are receiving the free, safe public education they are entitled to under the law,” Doukoure said.
As a student at the same school during 9/11, the older brother hoped 20 years later, things would be different and says he’s speaking out so it doesn’t continue.
“I had friends and classmates who called me a terrorist and I remember how hurt I was,” the older brother said. "This is the type of rhetoric we hear about and it leads to bullying and hate crimes. And if it’s not met with a strict zero-tolerance policy from the school, it will open to doors to further acts of racism and violence.”
We did reach out to Ann Arbor Public Schools, which responded with a statement that reads: "The Ann Arbor Public Schools does not comment on personnel matters and pending legal complaints."