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100 students rally around friend after bullies tried to snatch her hijab. They escorted her to class

A group of bullies targeted her over her identity and hurled Islamophobic chants at her as she walked to class.

100 students rally around friend after bullies tried to snatch her hijab. They escorted her to class
Image source: TikTok/@575_msjanice

Editor's note: This article was originally published on October 15, 2021. It has since been updated.

Trigger warning: This story contains themes of bullying and Islamophobia that some readers may find distressing.

Over a hundred students escorted their friend to class after she was bullied and threatened with forcibly taking off her hijab at school. The seventh-grader was in tears after bullies targeted her for being a Muslim, with some calling her a 'terrorist'. They shouted Islamophobic insults at her, before threatening to take off her hijab, a traditional head covering worn by Muslim women. The bullies didn't go through with the threat but the incident left her traumatized. The seventh-grader opened up to her social studies teacher Janice Adams about the incident and her eyes welled up as she narrated the ordeal to her. "She was crying and she said she felt pretty alone," said Adams, a teacher at Camino Real Middle School in Las Cruces, reported USA Today. "I told her how amazing she is and that she's loved." 

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Adams alerted Brittany Johnson, a special education teacher, about the incident. Johnson, who advises the school's leadership class and student council, decided to intervene. "It breaks my heart to know that this is even something we have to talk about," said Johnson. "(Bullying) is not something we take lightly. I suddenly felt that we needed to show everyone — not just her but her bullies as well — that we are one. You're not going to do that to one of our students. You're not going to make somebody feel like they're alone." 

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Johnson decided to do something about it and spoke to her leadership class and within no time, the student council, and members of the school's football and volleyball teams joined hands to show her that they were there for her. They all came out in numbers, roughly 100 students, and gathered to walk her to class, said Johnson. Janice Adams took photos of the support the seventh-grader received and posted them on TikTok along with a video, captioning it, "We are Camino Wildcats! Way to show we are one! We don't tolerate bullying!!"

Principal Michelle Harris said the show of strength from the students showed that bullying would not be tolerated at the school. Harris lavished praise on her staff and students for standing by the seventh-grader. "From the moment that happened, our teachers took a leadership role," said Harris. "Our students took a leadership role. What came out of that was a shift in the climate and the culture of our school." Harris said she was incredibly proud of them. "It was one event. It was two teachers. It was 100 kids, and now it's the entire population of our learning community," said Harris. She said no students were disciplined for Islamophobic bullying but added that there hadn't been any further incidents of bullying.

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The incident comes shortly after the school district accepted an anti-bullying proclamation. Amy Himelright, the school district's director of mental health and academic counseling, said the district was planning a series of presentations planned 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 Himelright. "We acknowledge that kids who bully, likely have untreated trauma, mental distress, or environmental factors themselves. So not only do we need to treat and protect, obviously, any victims of bullying, but we take the stance that we also have to treat the bully."

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Adams said it was imperative that students have an adult they trust and can confide in. "It's important to build that relationship with your students, so when they're in a situation, they know that they have a safe place to come to you," said Adams, and it was a testament to her relationship with students that the seventh-grader came to her when she was bullied. "I think every teacher strives every day to create that environment for our students. I'm just glad she could come to me."