A 10-year-old Muslim student in Massachusetts found two threatening notes ― including one death threat ― inside her elementary school storage bin, prompting local police to get involved.
One note, which the fifth-grader found on Friday at Framingham’s Hemenway Elementary School, read, “You’re a terrorist.”
The following Monday, the girl got another note in her storage cubby, which read, “I will kill you.”
Both notes, handwritten on lined paper, contained the student’s name.
Sumaiya Zama, an advocate with the Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told HuffPost that the fifth-grader’s family is “deeply concerned and disturbed” by the incident. CAIR-MA is representing the family.
“They have expressed that their daughter is both deeply saddened and shocked at the attack on her and her identity,” Zama said.
Zama said the family has asked for the student’s name to be kept private.
After the first note, the school sent a letter to parents asking them to speak with their children, Boston 25 News reports. But the second note prompted the school to contact Framingham’s police department.
Lt. Patricia Grigas, the department’s public information officer, told HuffPost Wednesday evening that police are helping the Framingham school district investigate the incident. Grigas said she can’t confirm it as a hate crime at this point. If the writer of the note is identified as being under the age of 12, she said there can be no criminal charges.
During a press conference Wednesday, Framingham Public Schools Superintendent Robert Tremblay said students’ backpacks were searched after the notes were discovered. He said that he doesn’t believe the notes present an “imminent danger” to the school.
He added that hate is unwelcome in the Framingham schools and that teachers are striving to turn this into a teachable moment for students.
“When you think about a child in fifth grade, that kind of hate — where does that come from?” he said. “It’s not an innate feeling that a child would have. Where is this coming from? And the concern that we have is how is it a teachable opportunity in our classroom?”
Hemenway Elementary School Principal Liz Simon said she and other staff members at the school were “heartbroken” and “devastated” by the incident.
Simon said she visited classrooms at the school to speak with students about what happened. She said some students were unaware of what a terrorist was, which sparked discussions about that term. The students also discussed the term “hate crime” and spoke about how the notes were unacceptable.
Simon said she asked all students to write notes to the Muslim fifth-grader who was targeted to show their support.
CAIR has documented an uptick in the bullying of school-age Muslim youth, although Zama said this particular incident involved someone who is younger than many of the other Muslim youth who report bullying.
Zama said the family has been appreciative of how the school has responded to the notes. She hopes any kind of discipline the perpetrator faces includes education about Muslims and Islam.
“Much of the source of hatred that fuels some young people stems from the public rhetoric of xenophobia which can be affirmed by conversations happening in the home,” Zama said.
CAIR Massachusetts is encouraging interfaith allies to write letters of support to the 10-year-old girl to “counteract the original message of hate.” The letters can be sent to the group’s Boston address.
The Muslim student has continued to attend school after the incident, Simon said.
“But I’m sure it’s very hard,” Simon said. “It has to be.”