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Champaign teacher singles out Palestinian student equating her with Hamas

Majdaleen Judeh speaking at the February 12th Unit 4 school board meeting.

CHAMPAIGN – On October 11th – just days after the Hamas attacks on Israel – a seventh-grade English teacher at Franklin Middle School chose to show his students a short video of the attack. During this lesson, he specifically pointed out one of his students because she was Palestinian.

The young girl has light pale skin, straight red hair, and brown eyes. She does not wear a hijab. 

Amajdaleen Judeh, the girl’s mother, mentioned that her daughter was not involved and could have remained unnoticed in the discussion about the conflict. That changed when her teacher singled her out.

After the teacher showed the clip, his students asked who exactly was Hamas. He answered by saying they are Palestinians. Then his students asked what Palestinians look like. 

That’s when he called out Judeh’s daughter. He confirmed her ethnic origin then proceeded to say that’s what they look like. 

“Why do you have to put my daughter out there? Why do you have to point her out? Why do you have to point out her parental origins?” said Judeh.

Days later, the young girl cried to her mother that she felt unsafe and didn’t want to go back to school. 

That’s when her mother took her out of school and looked to the school for some accountability. 

Amajdaleen Judeh says her daughter was traumatized and put in danger after what transpired. 

“We’re in hiding right now, like, just that week, during October was when the boy Wadea in Chicago was stabbed to death in the comfort of his home,” said Judeh.

She wanted the teacher who singled out her daughter to be fired, to receive sensitivity training and for the school to offer therapy for her daughter.

The school did not fire the teacher, but transferred Judeh’s daughter to another English class. 

After returning to school, she faced another incident where a student labeled her a ‘terrorist’ and a ‘twin tower bomber.’ Judeh says this student had been in the same class where her teacher had previously singled her daughter out.

He’s showing a clip of them how they’re like a terrorist group. And so basically, my daughter is Hamas to the students now,” said Amajdaleen Judeh.

The student was subsequently disciplined by the school. But, Judeh continued her fight for accountability on the school’s part for the source of the damage.

“I want justice for my daughter. And I really want that teacher resigned because he can spread generational trauma and that needs to stop and I hope that this district will hear me,” said Judeh.

Her mother was told that the teacher faced consequences but was not told what the consequences were. They declined sensitivity training. They also declined the therapy – at first.

Then the school offered Amajdaleen Judeh a settlement that still declined her demands, but did offer to pay for some of Judeh’s therapy. 

The offer was contingent on a non-disclosure agreement where the school does not admit any wrongdoing. 

Judeh declined to sign. 

“We all should be treated with respect, and shouldn’t be in any harm’s way,” said Judeh. “We have dignity and like some politicians say in the media, they refer to Palestinians as animals. We’re not animals. We’re humans.”

On February 12, four months after the incident, Amajdaleen Judeh went to the Champaign Unit 4 school board meeting, along with her father, and a member from the mosque to address their concerns. 

During this meeting many people stepped up and spoke about various issues and quite a few went over their allotted time. 

However, Judeh was the only one who was interrupted and told to stop by someone on the board. 

“I was cut off, my mic was turned off, I didn’t get to finish,” said Judeh. “A lot of people went over their three minutes. And as you could see, they continued to talk. I was quickly cut off because I know they don’t want to hear it.”

Amajdaleen Judeh is seeking support for her cause, aiming to hold the school accountable. She has also reached out to a student advocate for assistance.

The district has declined IPM’s request for comment. 

Mae Antar

Mae Antar

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