Florida teacher suspended for allegedly calling Muslim pupil a “raghead Taliban”

Deyab-Houssein Wardani

A French teacher from Florida has been suspended for five days without pay after she was accused of calling her 14-year-old Muslim student a “raghead Taliban” and “terrorista”.

The administrative complaint filed against Maria Valdes also claimed that, when the teacher called on Deyab-Houssein Wardani, she once asked “Okay the Taliban, what is the answer?”

It also alleged that the Cypress Bay High School teacher would say “Ah no! The Taliban is here” when he walked into the classroom wearing a hooded jumper, and would refer to him as a “terrorista”, which translates to terrorist in Spanish.

Deyab-Houssein, who did not know the Taliban was the Afghan Islamist organisation until he asked his parents, said the other students in his class laughed at the nickname.

“I would not expect this from a teacher, teachers are supposed to set an example for their students,” he told the Sun Sentinel.

“It’s very sad that people still think like that, that all Muslims are your average daily terrorist.”

Valdes will also have to undergo a diversity training program.

Punishment amounted to a “vacation”

The punishment is not enough for Deyab-Houssein’s father, who said that, at a minimum, he believes the teacher should have been suspended for a year without pay – if not fired.

Wardani said the five-day suspension amounted to a “vacation”. He made his anger loud and clear after the punishment was passed down at the Broward School Board’s meeting last Tuesday.

Angry father, Youssef Houssein Wardani
Angry father, Youssef Houssein Wardani

The father told school administrations they should “all be removed for bullying,” according to Local 10.

Superintendent Robert W. Runcie, who filed the administrative complaint after he was notified of Valdes’ alleged comments, said the matter was taken “very seriously” and was addressed with the “appropriate sense of urgency”.

“I take a lot of exception to any statement, or suggestion that somehow this administration and school board did nothing or was ever lax in our response”, he said, according to the Miami Herald.

Wardani said this was not the first time his son, who is half Lebanese and half Moroccan, has experienced discrimination.

In the fourth-grade a school bus driver who knew Deyab-Houssein was Muslim told him “we’re going to wipe you off the face of this planet and turn you into dust and sand,” Wardani told the Sun Sentinel.

Although the school board voted unanimously to discipline the teacher, Wardani was not done fighting after the meeting was over.

“I promise you for the rest of my life, until my dying breath, I’m going to make sure no child goes through what my Deyab-Houssein had to go through,” he told the Miami Herald.

Wardani said he has reached out to the FBI.

District administrators said the degree of punishment that could be levelled against Valdes was limited because of an agreement with the Teachers Union.

As for Deyab-Houssein, he said he is ‘very proud’ of his father and is getting support from his peers, but that he now feels a “strange vibe” from his French teacher, “like she doesn’t want me to be there.”

“This is motivating me to work harder,” he said. “To prove that I am not a random guy who you can call a Taliban.”

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