Fort Lauderdale

Supporters Rally For Teen Allegedly Called “Rag Head Taliban” by Teacher

The father of a South Florida high school student says Broward County Schools aren't doing enough to punish a teacher who he says called his Muslim son a "rag head Taliban."

Youssef Wardani, along with members of CAIR, students and supporters gathered in downtown Fort Lauderdale Wednesday to raise awareness of the incident and to call for harsher action against the accused teacher.

Wardani, the father of 14-year-old Deyab-Houssein Wardani, appeared before the Broward School board last Tuesday to demand the firing of Maria Valdes, his son's teacher at Cypress Bay High School in Weston.

Wardani said his son walked into Valdes' French class on Feb. 2 wearing a hoodie after gym class. "Here comes the rag head Taliban," Valdes said, according to Wardani.

"My teacher called me a rag head Taliban," the teen told NBC 6 last Tuesday. "I was a bit shocked and disappointed she called me that. But first off, she was my favorite teacher, and I would never have expected that from her."

The family is Muslim. After his son told him of the incident a few days later, Wardani reported it to the school's principal.

Broward County Public Schools spokesperson released a statement last week saying the incident was under investigation.

According to sources, Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie intends to recommend that Valdes be suspended one week without pay at the next school board meeting on March 17th. According to Wardani, that's not good enough.

Wardani says that the family has yet to receive a public apology from the principal or the teacher. Had that happened from the beginning, Wardani says they may not have had to elevate the incident.

"It could have been resolved from day one." Wardani says. "We need to make the message clear that they cannot hush hush any incidents like this. This is unacceptable for a 14-year-old in class to be intimidated by a teacher."

"If they [the teacher, the principal] had been a little bit more sincere with me, we would not have been here," Wardani explains.

Broward County Public Schools spokesperson released a statement last week saying the incident is under investigation.

"Broward County Public Schools respects and values the diversity of our students, families and communities," the statement read. "This situation is being taken seriously; the District launched an immediate investigation into the matter and will be bringing forward, to the next School Board in March, a recommendation for disciplinary action regarding this situation."

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