CHICAGO – An Illinois high school senior is threatening to file a discrimination lawsuit against his school district after he says a teacher told him he fit the stereotype of a terrorist and humiliated him in front of his peers.
Maysam Amanishourbariki, 17, who was born in the United States and is of Iranian heritage, claims his Italian language teacher told him last semester that he fit the stereotype of a terrorist during an exchange in class over his clothing. He says two other students also called him a terrorist, which was reported to school officials.
"Everyone started to laugh," Amanishourbariki told the Waukegan News-Sun. "I just sat there. I was confused. I didn't know what to do. I was angry and upset."
Amanishourbariki, who goes by "Amani," will graduate this June from Highland Park High School. He has three older brothers who attended the same school.
The teacher, who apologized to Amani, urged him to pull down his hoodie and take off his hat that he wore to school after a new haircut.
"Right after she said it, one of the students — a freshman — got up and gave her a high five," Amani told the Waukegan News-Sun. "I was like, 'Is this kid serious?' They treated it like a joke, but it's not a joke."
Amanishourbariki's attorney, Tamara Holder, said the normally outgoing student, who plays volleyball at the school, has changed since the incident. "Maysam has become withdrawn, he's nervous," she said. "He's not sure who his friends are."
The boy's parents are upset by the ordeal and are worried about their son, Holder said.
"It's extraordinarily traumatic with the whole family," she said. "The mother and father are just so visibly upset."
"This school is allowing this behavior to occur, not only within the student body but within the administration," Holder said. "We are ignoring a child's pleas to stop being harassed."
Carol Votsmier, a spokeswoman for Township High School District 113, said the district is unaware that any suit has been filed.
“We are a district that prides ourselves on our diversity and our tolerance,” Votsmier said. “This is very concerning to us.”
Votsmier said she could not comment on personnel matters, but the teacher remains on staff.
Holder plans to meet with school officials next week in an attempt to avoid taking the case to court. If the family does file a lawsuit, it will seek unspecified damages and cite Amanishourbariki as a victim of discrimination and defamation.