Bristol’s Northeast Middle School made national news recently when its plan to have a Muslim woman speak to students as part of a lesson on world religions was scuttled.
Made aware of vitriolic — and some threatening — comments posted to social media and directed at the teacher who invited the speaker, Bristol’s superintendent of schools cancelled the planned talk. How sad.
Not only did Northeast Middle School students lose the opportunity to hear from Annam Choudhry, the founder of YUSRA, an organization which aims to empower Muslim women, but pulling the plug on her talk sends a terrible message; that bullying works. Bristol schools — buttressed by the Bristol police — should have stood their ground.
The Connecticut chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, responded to the news that Choudhry had been disinvited to Northeast Middle School with a pointed message.
Farhan Memon, chairperson of CAIR-CT, stated, in part: “While we appreciate that the safety of students and faculty is of paramount importance, the district should be working with the Bristol Police Department to ensure the security of the school. The police department in turn should be taking any true threats seriously and investigating them.
“Cancelling speakers outright emboldens individuals and organizations in Bristol who are Islamophobic and Anti-Semitic. It does a disservice to Bristol's students and to the community as a whole who need to learn about America's pluralism and diversity.”
In another questionable move, as part of the brouhaha surrounding Choudry, a presentation by a Rabbi who was set to speak about Judaism at Northeast Middle School also was canceled.
However, it is being reported that Bristol Public Schools plan to hold a panel discussion on world religions shortly at a local high school. This would be a step in the right direction. Hopefully, this time, school leaders don’t kowtow to bigots.