'Racism Has Got To Go': Andrew High School Students Protest After Racist Video, Fight

Bernie Tafoya
November 15, 2019 - 1:29 pm
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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Dozens of mostly Muslim students protested outside a southwest suburban high school Friday morning following a fight earlier this week over an anti-Muslim incident. 

“We are done being quiet. We are done letting people think we have no voice. We have a voice,” said Andrew High School sophomore Jackelyn Mubarak.

There was a fight at the school this week, reportedly triggered by someone talking about a video produced last year showing someone at the school burning and stepping on a Koran. 

“They worry about vaping more than this happening. This has us feel(ing) down. It beaks my heart to even see this happening. It’s almost 2020 and this is still happening," Mubarak said.

Julian Bazan said he was suspended for a week for his role in Wednesday’s fight. He said he had confronted a student who had been bragging about desecrating a Koran last year and videoing it.  

“They kept talking about it, talking about and saying how they would do it again," he said.

Bazan said “racism is a big thing in this school right now.”  

He accuses the administration of not doing anything to stop it.

Dozens of mostly Muslim students protested outside a southwest suburban high school Friday morning following a fight earlier this week over an anti-Muslim incident. 
WBBM Newsradio/Bernie Tafoya


The protesters said that what makes matters worse is that it wasn’t until a day after Muslim students were suspended for being in the fight that non-Muslim students were disciplined.

The Andrew High School principal issued a letter to parents saying all students have been equally disciplined.

Hadeel, a sophomore at Andrew, said there was a lot of negativity then thrown around the school in the past couple of days, including threats that Friday’s protesters might be shot.  

“Social media has, like, a big role in it,” she said.

Parent Sam Shalabi said he’s proud that his two children who are students at Andrew took part in the protest.  

“It’s a shame it had to escalate to this. I think they should have just punished both sides equally on the first day and it would never have to go to this level," he said.

Hadeel said the administration has said it plans an assembly to address the situation in the not-too-distant future.

On the school’s Twitter feed this morning, Principal Bob Nolting posted a video students produced last April titled “T-bolts Against Hate.”  The Tinley Park school’s nickname is the Thunderbolts.

The district and school release a joint statement and letter on Friday. You can read the full letter below:

Joint Statement from District 230 Superintendent of Schools Dr. James M. Gay and Andrew High School Principal Bob Nolting

Over the past couple of days, there have been several rumors regarding an altercation that took place at Andrew High School on Wednesday morning. We feel it is important to set the record straight regarding what did and did not take place here at Andrew High School.

We will begin with the facts of what did take place:

  • Wednesday morning a group of students engaged in a physical and verbal altercation that appears to have stemmed from a video posted to social media over a year ago that allegedly depicted a current student, not on school grounds, disrespecting the Quran. The student depicted in the video was not an Andrew High School student at the time. School administration has asked each of the students who have referenced the video to share it with the school, however, none of the students have been able to do so.
  • The 10 students who were actively engaged or participated in the altercation were equally and appropriately disciplined.
  • While there were verbal exchanges among some students on Wednesday, they did not result in physical altercations. 
  • There was a second physical altercation in the afternoon but after investigating that incident it was not related to the earlier altercation. 
  • On Thursday morning, before the school day started, approximately 60 students gathered in front of Andrew High School on the sidewalk to share a message that hate and intolerance will not be accepted at Andrew High School. The gathering was orderly and peaceful. Students dispersed and entered the school as the first period bell rang. Andrew High School and District 230 celebrate the gifts that each student brings to our community.
  • The school day on Thursday ended without incident and the administration and students engaged in open dialogue to help heal the wounds and forge a path forward that celebrates each and every student.
  • Approximately 450 students did not attend school on Thursday and 250 did not attend on Friday. The typical absence rate is 125-150 students. Several field trips took place on Thursday and Friday as usual.
  • On Friday morning, approximately 75 students gathered in front of the school on the sidewalk before school to share a message of compassion, tolerance, and celebration of all. Again, the gathering was orderly and peaceful. Students dispersed and went into school before first period began. 

Addressing Safety

  • A safety plan has been and continues to be in place in collaboration with the Tinley Park Police and Orland Hills Police Departments. We enjoy a long-standing, strong relationship with both police departments to ensure the safety of our students, staff, and community.

Addressing Rumors

  • Many rumors have surfaced and have spread throughout the community that are not based on any evidence.
  • One rumor in particular that has been hurtful is the rumor that a student burned the Quran at school and spit in the face of a Muslim student. That did not happen. If it did, swift disciplinary action would be taken as we will never condone hateful behavior. The Andrew High School community stands together with all of our students to celebrate all of the gifts they bring to our school community. 
  • Another hurtful rumor is that a student was depicted in blackface using disparaging language. Again, there is no evidence of this post and if there were swift disciplinary action would have been taken as we will never condone hateful behavior. We believe this is related to a social media post from February of last school year of a student who had recently had a spray tan and posted a racially insensitive remark. The administration became aware of this post recently and the student was appropriately disciplined. School administration spoke with students who were upset by this post and reassured them that the school will never tolerate this type of messaging.
  • A third rumor that the student gatherings on the sidewalk in front of the school were disruptive or impeded traffic is not true. The gatherings were orderly and peaceful.
  • Social media platforms have been used to further these and other rumors without validity. The school has sent communication to families asking them to have conversations with their children about the use of social media and assessing the validity of what they see before spreading rumors. We continue to monitor social media and will not hesitate to discipline students who use social media to continue to disrupt the school environment.

Moving Forward

  • We continue to work collaboratively with our students, staff, families, and community to strengthen the core values of Andrew High School and the District 230 community.
  • The administration continues to work with student groups such as the Principal’s Social Equity Committee, Senior Leaders, and Superintendent’s Advisory which represents students of diverse backgrounds. Additionally, our weekly advisory curriculum will continue to focus on the themes of Empathy, Diversity, and Future Focus.

As a school and district, we continue to be committed to providing a safe and inclusive learning environment that celebrates the uniqueness of our students and staff. We are grateful to the many individuals and community organizations that reached out to support our students, staff, families, and community. Our students say it best in the video they created last school year entitled TBolts Against Hate. Please take a few minutes to watch what they had to say. 

Sincerely,

Dr. James M. Gay, District 230 Superintendent

Bob Nolting, Andrew High School Principal