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By Mehrose Ahmad and Sumaita Hasan
Following a Town Hall meeting in which Interim Acting Principal Rosemarie Jahoda discussed a drafted letter that she was unable to send to the student body after a hateful incident at the school, the two senior co-presidents of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) spoke to The Classic about the meeting they had with Ms. Jahoda regarding the incident. In the days after the election, the MSA held a bake sale in the lobby and a random passerby shouted “F*** Muslims” to the club members. The co-presidents, Sangida Akter and Tahiya Choudhury, were meeting with Ms. Jahoda with the hope of having the administration draft a letter to the community that would reassure them that such incidents are not tolerated, but the meeting left them them feeling “uncomfortable” and with the impression that Ms. Jahoda showed more interest in protecting the school’s image than addressing their concerns. One of the two left the meeting crying.
Sangida felt that although the principal “called us in to [the meeting to] move forward [following the incident], we retraced many steps back.”
Though Sangida and Tahiya hoped to find support from Ms. Jahoda, they felt that she doubted their account of the incident, stating, “She did like an ‘FBI’ investigation, like a police report.” Sangida and Tahiya felt as if Ms. Jahoda’s tone began to sound “suspicious,” and demonstrated that she was questioning whether or not this event “really happened.”
“She was asking, ‘Tell me where you were standing. Which way were you facing? Who was there? Who was to your right, left, and behind you?’”
When asked about other ways she could support the community, Ms. Jahoda explained to the girls that the school could not do an investigation, but that was not their concern. Tahiya said, “I made it clear that it is not important to punish the person who did it, but to make sure that this doesn’t happen to anyone—not just Muslims, but any minority: LGBTQIA+, blacks, immigrants or anyone.”
They remarked that the encounter made them severely uncomfortable and Sangida added that she “left the room crying.” She said she began to tear up when Ms. Jahoda mentioned that “she had a very public image of the school to protect and that’s why she couldn’t do anything public.” She felt Ms. Jahoda was putting the image of the school (and her own image) above their concerns. This is the second time that The Classic has spoken with an individual who has cried after meeting with the principal. In an article published last Friday, multiple witnesses confirmed that individual’s report.
Following their meeting with the principal, the upset students spoke to Ms. Fee and Ms. York who had been present at the meeting and helped calm them down afterwards.
In addition to their concerns about the principal’s focus on the school’s image, Tahiya and Sangida were particularly upset that Ms. Jahoda did not send out any message to the community about what was going on. In the days following the election, there were numerous incidents that impacted the THHS community relating to religious bigotry. They include the MSA being shouted at during their bake sale, an alumna being accosted on a bus for wearing a hijab, and a student being spit at while waiting for the bus. At a Town Hall, Ms. Jahoda spoke of even another incident that involved the basketball teams directly after the election.
Also at the Town Hall, Ms. Jahoda explained why she could not e-mail a statement to the community: “I did draft a statement to the school community. I sent it to legal for approval. I expected it to be approved as it didn’t say anything that I thought would be of concern. However, instead, I was sent an excerpt from the DOE regulations, that I could have shared, but I didn’t. I didn’t think that the school community would appreciate that. I was told that some statement is going to go out to the entire city, but what went out only went out to the educators, not to students and parents. I have no control over that. I did feel badly about it. I felt like if I didn’t ask for approval, it would have been better. I would have sent it out. So, in the future, I’ll have to make that judgement.”
Sangida and Tahiya shared that they wanted an “email saying that it is important to keep in mind that despite whatever political views you may hold, hate speech of any kind towards anyone will not be tolerated. We are still THHS.” Sangida felt that such a message to the school “would have been more than sufficient.” We can confirm that Sangida and Tahiya sent an e-mail that was copied to Ms. Jahoda prior to the meeting where they explained their desire to have the message sent to the community. They wrote, “we know that if [the message] was signed off with the principal, and the guidance department or the APs, students would feel comforted knowing the faculty is with them.”
Following the meeting, the MSA and GSA held a joint Town Hall for students to express their feelings about the incidents. Ms. Jahoda did attend this meeting to show her support. Sangida and Tahiya felt, however, that it was not enough.
Senior Rodela Ahmed, Secretary of the MSA, agreed and said,“I would’ve liked the principal to take care of it. I would like for her to do something about it that shows that she cares about her school and her students. I feel like her inability to do anything about it was just irresponsible.”
Nada Osman, an MSA member, also witnessed the hateful incident and reported it on Facebook. Of Sangida and Tahiya’s meeting, she said, “I thought Ms. Jahoda’s response was very irresponsible. If she is trying to show that she cares about the school, then the first thing she has to do is show the students she cares, even if it is something as small as having an announcement.”
Nada felt that Ms. Jahoda should have continued editing the letter until the DOE approved it. “Since she knows DOE rules so well, what did she do wrong in her statement that caused it to not be approved?”
She remains frustrated of the ordeal, believing the message sent to her group was “that the reputation of the school matters more than students themselves.”
Currently, Sangida feels that although “she [Ms. Jahoda] kept repeating what can I do to help your MSA now, she failed us firstly and as she is refusing to do anything now, I don’t know what else she can do.”
She adds that although she is aware that Ms. Jahoda says to visit her in her office, she wonders how Ms. Jahoda expects “anyone to walk into your office and not have the same reaction” that she had. She asks, “how is there an open door if nothing positive comes out of it?” Sangida says that though we did go “to talk to her, we feel like it didn’t help anything.” She concludes that, “I think that it is really important that the principal has some sort of a reassuring voice if things like this happen in her own school. Remaining silent is just as bad as supporting whats going on.”
Despite repeated attempts, Principal Jahoda was unavailable for comment today.