Bullying dispute erupts at Wayne school over ‘Taliban’ comment

Editors Note: Zero tolerance policies in schools really means officials have no ability to be discretionary or judiciary in dealing with issues involving students. It is much easier just to send them away.

By Andrea Alexander | NorthJersey.com.

WAYNE — On one side, a Wayne Valley High school student claims that his use of the word “Taliban” was innocent, mentioned in a conversation about a video game, according to his mother.

But to a Muslim student who overheard it at school on Thursday, it was upsetting. And she had perceived that he had looked at her when he said it, Principal Robert Reis said.

Now the boy is facing a one-day suspension on Monday, because, Reis said, he continued to talk about the incident and it got back to the girl and upset her. Reis said she felt the boy was boasting that he’d gotten away with something.

“This has nothing to do with the fact that the boy used a word,” Reis said. “This has everything to do with the boy hurt a girl’s feelings.” And after the boy was told by administrators not to discuss what happened, Reis said, “He went back and hurt her feelings a second time.”

But the boy’s mother, Rosa Giordano, said the incident “is totally being blown out of proportion” and she plans to fight the disciplinary action.

The incident has unfolded during a time of heightened sensitivity about bullying in schools. Reis said the school takes a “no nonsense” stance and coincidentally had been planning a December forum to discuss the issue.

Giordano said her son was not being a bully and is himself bi-racial.

“He never saw this girl before,” she said. “It was an innocent thing. How does she know he was not talking about a newspaper story?”

She said she plans to go to the district offices early Monday morning to fight for her son to be allowed to attend school that day.

“I don’t want this on his record as a racial slur and bullying,” she said. “I am sorry the girl got offended by the word ‘Taliban.’ I will make sure my son never says the word again … the poor kid is so upset he doesn’t want to go to school.”

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