RELIGION

Syrian Refugee High School Student Hospitalized After Bathroom Attack

Police are treating the attack at Chartiers Valley High School as a bullying incident.

Pennsylvania police are considering criminal charges after a Syrian Muslim refugee student was attacked in her high school’s bathroom on Friday.

Collier Township police said they don’t believe the incident at Chartiers Valley High School was a hate crime. It is being investigated as a “fight/bullying incident,” the department said in a statement on Sunday, adding that “disciplinary action and criminal charges are pending.”

The department declined to release further statements about the incident because juvenile criminal charges are involved.

Video of the attack went viral after the footage was posted to Facebook on Saturday.

In the minute-long video, a hijab-wearing student emerges from a bathroom stall and is confronted by a classmate wearing a purple shirt. The students then engage in a heated exchange.

The audio is unclear, but the student in the purple shirt appears to say at one point, “You’re lucky you’re from another language because I will crush you, bitch.”

The hijab-wearing student seems to respond, “Oh yeah? Try.” 

The student in the purple shirt then shoves the Muslim student into the stall and a scuffle ensues. The student in the purple shirt eventually drags the other girl to the floor and continues to punch her, while the Muslim student yells, “Leave me alone!”

A screenshot from CBS-affiliate KDKA shows an apparent confrontation between two high school students in a bathroom.
A screenshot from CBS-affiliate KDKA shows an apparent confrontation between two high school students in a bathroom.

The Pittsburgh chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights group, said that the Muslim student was admitted to the hospital with a concussion. CAIR said that it was offering legal support to the student’s family.

CAIR leaders said they believe the incident could have been motivated by anti-Muslim bias. 

The victim is a 14-year-old from a Syrian refugee family, Safdar Khwaja, CAIR-Pittsburgh’s chapter president, told ABC-affiliate WTAE-TV. The family had reportedly spent two years in a refugee camp before moving to the U.S. a few years ago.

“They were fleeing anarchy, violence and the complete breakdown of the social system, governing system, so they came to a civilized place and we all assured them this is the most civilized place in the world. To see this kind of violence take place, it’s very disappointing,” Khwaja said.

The Chartiers Valley School District said in a statement that it is “appalled and disturbed” by the incident. 

“Consequences will be enforced to the fullest extent, according to District policy and the Law,” the district stated.

Khwaja told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he’d like to see the school district conduct some kind of training for students to help foster more tolerant behavior. 

He added that the student’s family is “very, very distraught, distressed and deeply disturbed that this type of violence takes place.” 

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