NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Parents of a fourth-grade student say their son was unfairly punished at school.
The child says he was forced to watch other students eat while observing a religious fast.
Like most kids his age, Ilyas Aljahmi likes to play video games. His favorite book is “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”
But his parents say what happened to him at school in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn earlier this year is something no nine-year-old should ever go through.
“She humiliated him, she emotionally abused him,” Zaman Mashrah said. “She used his religion as a form of punishment.”
Aljahmi’s parents say in May during the month of Ramadan – a holy time for Muslims when they fast each day – their son was punished by a school staff member at P.S. 264.
“She claimed that my son was laughing or mocking her in some way which he wasn’t so she stated to him in front of all his friends, ‘since you are laughing I’ll make you sit in the cafeteria,’” the mother added.
Muslim students otherwise spend the lunch break in a different room.
“Just to imagine my son sitting in that cafeteria, alone, scared, helpless.”
“I felt sad, depressed, and angry. I mostly felt sad because I had to sit there and watch people eat while I’m fasting,” Ilyas Aljahmi said.
The parents say they immediately went to the principal who in turn reported it to the Department of Education, but six months later, even after Ilyas’s parents sent him to a different school, no one has been held accountable.
“What she did to my child is not right,” Mashrah said.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations has filed a civil rights complaint against the DOE on the family’s behalf – calling the incident “faith-based administrative bullying.”
The DOE issued a statement saying “we take any allegation of discrimination seriously, and will review the complaint.”
The family hopes they see action soon.
“We need some sort of correction to be made with the Department of Education and staff members so that this incident doesn’t occur again,” the student’s father, Waleed Aljahmi said.
The civil rights complaint will be reviewed by the New York City Commission on Human Rights. The outcome could include extra training requirements for the DOE, financial civil penalties, and emotional distress damages.