Concrete Herald barred from interview with student

By Jason Miller
posted 3.25.13

After sending an invitation to a March 25 media-only interview with the student who has accused Concrete K-8 teacher Mary Janda of making anti-Muslim comments during a class discussion, the Seattle office for the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-WA) today abruptly barred Concrete Herald from attending the interview. CAIR-WA Executive Director Arsalan Bukhari cited family concerns as the reason.

“We were informed that someone at Concrete Herald is friends with the individual who invited ACT! for America to speak in town. This made the student’s family very nervous and they asked me not to invite Concrete Herald to the interview,” Bukhari said to Concrete Herald Publisher Jason Miller as Miller was en route from Concrete to Sedro-Woolley, where the interview was to take place.

The interview was scheduled for the evening of March 25, at a location that CAIR-WA was to disclose earlier that same day. Miller made repeated phone calls and e-mail requests for the location that day, but was not given the information.

CAIR-WA first submitted the invitation via a March 21 media advisory e-mail that included purported excerpts “from the student’s initial thoughts statement written by [the student] during lunch break in late February 2013:

“At first I didn’t want to come forward because I was afraid of retribution but now I believe that staying in the shadows will not help…I witnessed kids that I attend school with everyday make statements such as ‘who cares’, ‘what’s the big deal’, and other things like ‘it’s just a bunch of terrorists.’  At this point I couldn’t believe the things I was hearing.  Is this right? The fact that students look up to their teacher for credible information is a huge matter.  Such as if you tell a four year old that the moon is made of cheese and they are none the wiser although this is just play between the adult and the child, the analogy itself is what matters.  Airing…personal beliefs in a classroom as a teacher however is not just play.  All I wanted was a formal apology and perhaps class/seminar to be provided advisory and or preventing teachers from sharing their private opinions…people who I have never met who know nothing of the situation are quick to automatically side with this teacher.  Why? Because [the teacher] is an adult and I am a minor but should that matter?  Many base their beliefs solely off of my age and assume that I just misinterpreted the incident. When in actuality I am very knowledgeable in many things a substantial amount more than most of my fellow class mates because I have taken the time to acknowledge every fact of the situation…So just to make it clear this is not just a religious matter, it is a matter of what shouldn’t be taught in our schools.  Think about it, you wouldn’t want your child to get a misconception due to teachers’ false accusations of a religious group. I didn’t think so.”

Earlier today, Concrete Herald spoke with two Concrete K-8 teachers who are familiar with the student’s writing style, vernacular, and competency level. Speaking on condition of anonymity, both teachers stated that the writing sample was not written by the student, as CAIR-WA claimed it was. Two school administrators who know the student also were shown the thoughts statement and stated it was highly unlikely it had been written by the student. The administrators also spoke on condition of anonymity.

The discovery casts doubt on the veracity of both the student’s claims and CAIR-WA’s claim that the writing belongs to the student, and comes on the same day that CAIR-WA barred Concrete Herald from interviewing the student. It follows Facebook statements made in February by students who were present during the initial exchange between Janda and the student; those students stated that the student in question misinterpreted Janda’s comments.

Attendees at a CAIR-WA forum in Concrete March 24, repeatedly told Bukhari and CAIR-WA’s Civil Rights Coordinator Jennifer Gist that Janda’s 20-year, unblemished career with Concrete School District spoke to an educator who was above reproach.

“You picked the wrong woman,” said one attendee.

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