Adam and Jameel Siam, two teen Muslims, are close to being kicked out of Williamsville East High School in East Amherst, New York, for fighting. However, the brothers say they were defending themselves after years of anti-Muslim bullying by their classmates (video below).
“You don’t know if someone is going to come up behind you or come right up to you and say something or do something to you,” Adam told WIVB. “You always have to watch where you are, what you’re doing, who’s around you. You always gotta have a watch out."
“I was bullied for Osama bin Laden, I used to be called a terrorist,” Jameel added. “And they used to tell me I was Saddam Hussein's cousin or something."
“This has been festering for years now,” the boys' mother, Rehab Siam, stated.
“When I go into school, all I hear are these racial comments,” Jameel said. “It just keeps pushing my buttons where I don’t focus on my studying anymore, and I focus on my safety.”
The boys have been in several fights related to the bullying, which spilled outside the school over the March 12-13 weekend when the family's home was vandalized with eggs and rocks.
“We [were] born and raised in America, me, my children,” Rehab told the news station. “So, for us to be looked at like we’re less than everybody else is pretty sad. I mean, we don't even know what to do anymore, we don't.”
The family filed a report with the police, and filed another one back in December 2015 after a fighting incident.
Rehab believes that school administrators could have taken action to prevent the fighting at school. A hearing with the school superintendent was supposed to take place on March 14, but was delayed. Rehab and her family gave their interview to WIVB from their lawyer's office.
Williamsville Superintendent Dr. Scott Martzloff told WIVB in a statement: “[W]e are prohibited by law from discussing student-specific disciplinary matters. The District takes harassment, bullying, insensitive or intolerant behavior very seriously."
"We are committed to prevention, and are continuously focused on outreach and education for students, families and staff. We remain vigilant and respond immediately to any and all violations of our code of conduct. Any behavior that compromises our commitment to a safe and caring school environment is unacceptable.”
According to the school district's code of conduct, bullying is prohibited and defined as "encompassing an imbalance of power and a variety of negative acts such as, but not limited to: physical (hitting, kicking, spitting, taking personal belongings); verbal (taunting, malicious teasing, name calling); psychological (spreading rumors, manipulating social relationships, extortion, or intimidation) carried out repeatedly over time."
"Harassment" is also banned, and is described by the school district as "creating a hostile environment by conduct or verbal threats, intimidation or abuse that has or would have the effect of unreasonably and substantially interfering with a student’s educational performance, opportunities or benefits, or mental, emotional or physical wellbeing."