Screenshot of parent Nazia Khanzada speaking at Cobb school board work session during comments
By Rebecca Gaunt
Nearly every public comment slot at Wednesday’s work session of the Cobb County Board of Education was taken by Muslim parents of Cobb students expressing their anger over an email the school district issued via its online learning platform CTLS on October 13.
Reports that a former leader of Hamas called for a global day of jihad to take place on Friday Oct. 13 spread quickly online and prompted an increased police presence in some American cities. They also caused some schools to close. No threats were deemed credible in the United States.
Parents posted in community CCSD Facebook groups on Oct. 12, with varying reactions. Some feared possible attacks. Some Muslim parents posted that they were considering keeping their kids home due to fears of harassment and discrimination. Other parents commented that they considered the fears unfounded.
Cobb County School District issued a response to the public on Oct. 13 at 9:25 a.m.:
We are aware of an international threat, not directly related to our schools, that has been issued by Hamas for Friday, October 13th.
We appreciate local, state, and Federal law enforcement, who are aware and, as always, supporting student safety.
While there is no reason to believe this threat has anything to do with our schools, parents can expect both law enforcement and school staff to take every step to keep our children safe.
“When it had nothing to do with our schools, I ask the question then, why was this message sent out?” asked parent Nazia Khanzada, her voice filled with frustration.
Saadia Memon, an attorney and board member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) lives in Cobb County.
“The notice addressed student safety, while acknowledging there is no reason to believe the threat has anything to do with our own school. But school officials sent it out anyway,” she said. “The update at best was irresponsible, at worst, it was fear mongering.”
Parent Sarah Quraishi accused the district of spreading misinformation and fanning the flames of an “already delicate situation.”
“I’ve already heard from numerous friends in the district that their innocent children have been called terrorists, Hamas, and other derogatory terms,” she said.
Both talked about the six-year-old Palestinian Muslim boy, Wadea Al-Fayoume, who was stabbed to death in Illinois on Oct. 15. His murder is being investigated as a hate crime.
Parent Sana Salim told the board and superintendent Chris Ragsdale, “My son has been called a terrorist in the past…I don’t want my child or any Muslim child to go through what I went through during the Iraq war as a student.”
Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.