A Muslim high school student said she was assaulted last week in a targeted attack at her campus in Elk Grove, Calif.
According to the Sacramento Bee, Sabah Elias, 17, was attending a tutoring lesson on Wednesday when she said she was followed into a bathroom by a masked person. Sabah, who was wearing a black T-shirt representing Pleasant Grove High School’s Muslim Student Assn., said the attacker verbally accosted her for being Muslim, then threw a bucket of water at her.
The girl reported the incident to school officials, who reported it to the Elk Grove Police Department. Police have since launched an investigation, which remains underway.
School officials sent a letter to parents Thursday condemning any actions of “bullying, hate speech, expressions of hate and hateful acts of any kind.”
“Such despicable and detestable acts and/or expressions of hate corrode every educational principle, philosophy and policy we are charged with upholding,” officials said.
On Friday, in a show of support for the Muslim community, the school held a meeting that included representatives from the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the mayor of Elk Grove.
“Every time a student reports that they’re being targeted for who they are, it is truly heartbreaking and it has a chilling effect on other marginalized students,” said Dustin Johnson, civil rights attorney for CAIR-Sacramento Valley. “We’re heartened to see the show of solidarity from the community and we’re committed to supporting our students and challenging bullying, hatred and prejudice in all forms. We’re closely monitoring the case.”
Photos shared on Instagram from the high school’s Muslim Student Assn. showed posters of support plastered across the campus.
“Stand with your Muslim peers,” one reads.
“This is a safe place for all,” another says.
“I was so scared initially that I wanted to go home, but then my parents really just inspired me and really showed me that other people are suffering like that too,” Sabah told the Bee about her decision to report the attack. Change “really begins with one person at a time that’s willing to take the right steps against injustice.”
Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ely told students at the meeting to be proud of their backgrounds, reminding them that hate is not acceptable.
“Don’t tolerate this. Call it for what it is,” he said.
School officials plan to work with CAIR representatives to determine how to best support Pleasant Grove’s Muslim students. The school will also increase security after school for those who need to remain on campus.
In October, CAIR reported that 40% of California students ages 11 to 18 said they had experienced bullying or discrimination. The findings were based on a survey of roughly 1,500 students.
“Seventy percent of respondents felt safe, welcomed and respected in their schools, just 1% higher than as reported in 2016. However, looking at the wider trend among CAIR-CA surveys, the number of Muslim students who report feeling safe, welcome and respected at their schools has declined 13 percentage points since 2014,” the report stated.
Pleasant Grove High School is celebrating Kindness Week this week. During last year’s celebration, the school organized a Winter Ball for students at Paradise High School and donated 800 dresses to students who had lost their homes.