A father is asking that his 14-year-old son’s teacher be fired after she called him a “rag-head Taliban.”
In a school board meeting for the Broward County Public Schools on Tuesday, Youssef Wardani requested that Maria Valdes, who he says used the derogatory term in French class on February 2, be fired or suspended for one year without pay.
The school, however, is recommending a five-day suspension without pay and diversity training, Tracy Clark, Public Information Office for the school district, tells Yahoo Parenting.
Early last month, Wardani says he heard his son, Deyab-Houssein Wardani, ask his mother what the word Taliban mean. “I said, ‘why are you asking that?’ He said, ‘I need to know what it means because I looked it up online and that’s not me. My teacher called me the Taliban,’” Wardani tells Yahoo Parenting.
That week, Deyab-Houssein, who is in ninth grade and goes by DH, walked into French class wearing a hooded sweatshirt, according to Wardani. Valdes saw him and said “Uh oh, here comes the rag-head Taliban.” That week, Wardani says Valdes started calling DH by the new nickname, “Taliban.”
When Wardani met with school officials, including Valdes, about the incident, he claims she didn’t deny she used that language. “She told me, ‘it was a joke, an innocent mistake. I have remorse,’” Wardani says. “It felt like she was reading from a teleprompter.”
Wardani says he expected more from the school. “The irony of the thing is that she is in the World Department,” he says. “She’s supposed to have some global knowledge, one would assume.”
In a statement provided to Yahoo Parenting, Clark said: “Broward County Public Schools respects and values the diversity of our students, families and communities. This situation is being taken seriously; the District launched an immediate investigation into the matter and will be bringing forward, to the next School Board Meeting in March, a recommendation for disciplinary action regarding this situation.”
At the time of his meeting with Valdes, Wardani says he only wanted a sincere public apology. But he never got it, and in the month since he’s posted a Facebook page entitled “Our son is NOT a ‘Rag Head Taliban’” to raise awareness about the issue.
“I’ve been in this country since 1988,” Wardani says. “The way it works is that I’m supposed to sacrifice so that my son doesn’t have to sacrifice the same way, and his son doesn’t sacrifice the same way. I moved here from Beirut, Lebanon, and I came to this country and got an education and a job and a beautiful wife and a beautiful life. It’s been the typical American dream. We made it, we’re in Florida. And then this comes and blindsides us and it feels like we’re in the Middle East again.”
At Tuesday’s board meeting, Wardani says the Superintendent was more interested in looking out for the teachers rather than the students. “The superintendent said he has obligations to protect his teacher, and I think he has an obligation to protect my son,” he says.
Wardani has teamed up with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Florida and is considering further legal action. In the meantime, DH is still in French class with Valdes everyday. “They gave me the offer to take him out of the class or have him learn online but I said no,” Wardani says. “He loves French so I said ‘no, you don’t punish him.’ I’m not going to take that away from him just because they don’t want to change her.”