seventh-grader Muslimah victim of anti-Muslim acts
- Loch Sheldrake seventh-grader victim of anti-Muslim actsBy LEONARD SPARKS - 04/24/10GRAHAMSVILLE The insults first came in fifth grade, pursuing Xelina Encarnacion in hallways, classrooms and the school bus that carried her between her Loch Sheldrake home and Tri-Valley Elementary School.
Xelina Encarnacion, 12, a seventh-grade Muslim student at Tri Valley Secondary School, has been harassed at school because of her beliefs. Her father, Samuel Encarnacion, reads the Quran on Thursday afternoon with her brother Idris, 3, at their Loch Sheldrake home .The taunts of "bomb baby," "terrorist" and "towel head" followed her into the seventh grade at Tri-Valley Secondary School as she began wearing a hijab, a traditional head covering that Muslim women begin wearing at puberty.When a boy pulled her hijab Wednesday, Xelina retaliated, landing in detention after chasing him down and hitting him. "I felt violated," she said. "I felt like I didn't deserve it, because I was protecting myself."The Tri-Valley Central School District said two students accused of taunting Xelina were harshly punished this week. Her parents say the call telling them their daughter was serving detention was the latest insult after repeated complaints to school officials."Instead of a call to say we resolved the situation, it's one to tell us our daughter's in detention," Samuel Encarnacion said. "Yes, hold her accountable for behavior unbecoming of a student. But rectify the situation that causes her to act that way."Tri-Valley Superintendent Thomas Palmer said he just learned about Xelina's treatment this past week. The district suspended two students in response and met with their parents, he said. "They were harsh punishments," he said. "It wasn't just a small slap on the wrist."Palmer said he also asked district staff to investigate more incidents and is considering diversity sessions for students and a survey of the schools' "temperature." "We want a safe and orderly environment for every student here," he said.The harassment started in the fifth grade when her parents visited school wearing traditional Muslim dress, said Xelina, 12. The abuse continued into the current school year, she said, and involved as many as 10 to 15 boys."I've gone to my first-period teacher, to one of the security guards and to my second-period teacher," she said. "They told me that they would handle it."Samuel Encarnacion, president of the Masjid Ahlis Sunnah Islamic Information Center in Liberty, says the name-calling reflects anti-Muslim rhetoric engendered by 9/11.More than 200 Muslim families live in the Liberty area, and they are wary in public, Samuel Encarnacion said.He worries that continued abuse will make his daughter so despondent that she considers harming herself. "She comes home and she's so depressed," he said. "And my daughter is a happy kid."