LAS CRUCES, N.M. — When a seventh-grader confided in social studies teacher Janice Adams after several students bullied her for wearing her hijab at school, tears pooled in her eyes.

Islamophobic remarks were hurled by students. One student was dared to rip off her hijab, a traditional head covering worn by Muslim women, but he didn’t go through with it.

Adams, who is a teacher at Camino Real Middle School Las Cruces said that Adams was crying because she felt lonely. “I told her how incredible she is, and that she was loved.”

Adams brought the girl to Brittany Johnson, a special education teacher who advises the school’s leadership class and student council. Johnson was Johnson’s teacher. They listened.

Johnson shared, “It breaks mine to know that we even have to discuss this.” Johnson said, “Bullying is something that we do not take lightly. I suddenly felt that we needed to show everyone – not just her but her bullies as well – that we are one. You’re not going to do that to one of our students. It’s not your job to make someone feel isolated.

The next day, Johnson’s leadership class, the student council, and members of the school’s football and volleyball teams came together to escort the seventh-grader between classes to show their support. About 100 students gathered to walk her to class, Johnson said.

Adams gathered photos of the student escort, and uploaded a TikTok video with the caption “We Are Camino Wildcats!” It’s a great way to prove that we are one! Bullying is not tolerated!

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Michelle Harris, principal of Camino Real, stated that students are not allowed to bully.

“From the moment that happened, our teachers took a leadership role,” Harris said. “Our students took on a leadership role. What came out of that was a shift in the climate and the culture of our school.”

It was just one thing. There were two teachers. It was 100 kids, and now it’s the entire population of our learning community,” Harris added. Harris said, “I am really proud of them.”

Harris stated that no students were disciplined because of the Islamophobic bullying.

The school district, which recently accepted an anti-bullying proclamation, has a series of presentations planned to bring awareness to bullying for Bullying Prevention Month in October.

Amy Himelright is the director of academic and mental counseling for the school district. She stated that bullying’s root causes are what they really want to stress. We recognize that bullies are likely to be victims of untreated traumas, mental distress, or other environmental factors. We must not only treat any bullying victims, but also the bullies.

Students at Camino Real Middle School in Las Cruces came together after their peer was bullied for wearing her hijab at school. About 100 students escorted her to class the next day to support her.

Adams says it’s vital to prevent bullying by having a mentor that students trust.

“It’s important to build that relationship with your students, so when they’re in a situation, they know that they have a safe place to come to you,” Adams said. Adams said, “I believe every teacher wants to provide that environment every day for their students. She was so kind to come and see me.

Follow Miranda Cyr via Twitter @mirandabcyr


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