RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Charlotte's public school system is investigating allegations that a kindergarten teacher singled out a 5-year-old student for harassment because he's Muslim.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations said Wednesday that the teacher grabbed the student by the neck at one point and called him a "bad Muslim boy" multiple times over several weeks.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools spokeswoman Renee McCoy said the district is investigating and takes the allegations detailed by CAIR in a letter to school officials seriously. She said she couldn't comment further, partly because many employees are out for Thanksgiving.
The letter, written by CAIR lawyer Maha Sayed, said harsh treatment by the teacher at David Cox Road Elementary School made the boy fearful of coming to school.
"For example, she would routinely single out (the student) from his classmates and require him to carry a heavy backpack throughout the day ... which caused (the student) to develop significant back pain," Sayed wrote in the letter dated Monday.
The boy's mother had a meeting about his treatment with the principal and guidance counselor, and the principal placed him in another teacher's classroom in October, according to the letter. Sayed says the boy continued to encounter the teacher he had complained about.
On Nov. 16, the teacher in the complaint approached the boy in his new classroom, "grabbed him by the neck and began choking him," Sayed writes, noting that the boy was "crying and extremely shaken" afterward. The letter says that the boy's new teacher had to separate him from the teacher who grabbed him.
Sayed's letter was addressed to Rebecca Garland, North Carolina's deputy superintendent of public instruction. It asks for an investigation and disciplinary action against the teacher, possibly including termination or rescinding her teaching license.
Garland said in an email Wednesday that she received the letter, which is being reviewed by a staff attorney for the Department of Public Instruction.
A Charlotte police spokesman said the department didn't have any reports on the allegations.
The teacher accused in CAIR's letter didn't immediately respond to email or phone messages. The Associated Press is not naming her partly because she hasn't been charged with a crime.
Jibril Hough, spokesman for the Islamic Center of Charlotte, said the allegations are all the more shocking because they involve someone in a leadership role over children.
"Teachers have to stand up," he said. "The people in leadership have to stand up and squash it and don't allow it."
Foreman reported from Winston-Salem.
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