LAS CRUCES, NM – When a seventh grade student confided in social studies teacher Janice Adams after several students harassed her for wearing hijab in schoolTears welled up in his eyes.
The students had committed Islamophobic insults. One student dared to tear off his hijab, a traditional headdress worn by Muslim women, but he did not go with it.
“She was crying and she said she felt very lonely,” said Adams, a teacher at Camino Real Middle School in Las Cruces. “I told her how wonderful she is and that she is loved.”
Adams brought the girl to Brittany Johnson, a special education teacher who advises the school’s leadership class and student council. In Johnson’s class, both teachers listened.
“It breaks my heart to learn that this is something we have to talk about,” Johnson said. “(bullying) is not something we take lightly. I suddenly felt like we needed to show everyone – not only him but his goons as well – that we are one. You with one of our students You’re not going to do that. You’re not going to let anyone feel like they’re alone.”
The next day, members of Johnson’s leadership class, student council, and the school’s football and volleyball teams came together to escort seventh-graders between classes to show their support. Johnson said about 100 students gathered to take him to class.
Adams put together photos of the student escort and posted a video on TikTok with the caption, “We are Camino Wildcats! Way to show we are one! We don’t tolerate bullying!!”
We all have a unique perspective: Sign up for This Is America, a weekly that takes news from reporters from a range of backgrounds and experiences
Principal Michelle Harris said student escort shows that bullying is not tolerated at the Camino Real.
“From the moment it happened, our teachers took on leadership roles,” Harris said. “Our students took on leadership roles. What came out of this was a change in the climate and culture of our school.”
“It was one event. It was two teachers. It was 100 kids, and now that’s the entire population of our learning community,” Harris said. “I’m really proud of them.”
No students have been disciplined for Islamophobic bullying, but Harris said there has been no further bullying.
The school district, which recently adopted an anti-bullying proclamation, plans several presentations to bring awareness to bullying for Bullying Prevention Month in October.
“What we’re really trying to emphasize is the root cause of bullying,” said Amy Himmelwright, the school district’s director of mental health and academic counseling. “We recognize that children who are bullied have untreated trauma, mental distress, or environmental factors. So we not only need to treat and protect, obviously, victims of bullying, but we do this. take the stance that we also have to treat bullying.”
Adams said being an adult makes students feel comfortable believing in them to stop bullying.
“It’s important to build that connection with your students, so when they’re in a situation, they know they have a safe place to come to you,” Adams said. “I think every teacher makes an effort every day to create that environment for our students. I’m glad she can come to me.”
Follow Miranda Cyr on Twitter @mirandabcyr.