UPDATE: A high school teacher accused of telling an Arab-American student "we don't negotiate with terrorists" when he sought a homework extension has been suspended, officials with the Ridgefield School District in Bergen County confirmed.
Another Ridgefield Memorial High School teacher and classmates witnessed the teacher's comment to Mohammed Zubi, a 17-year-old Muslim senior who's captain of the varsity soccer team, according to the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ).
"I didn't mean it like that," the teacher reportedly told the boy afterward, the council said.
Although school officials said they "cannot legally comment on personnel or student matters," they wanted the public to know that the Board of Education "immediately suspended the staff member while it is conducting a full investigation."
The Board intends to pursue "any and all legal remedies against the staff member as any discriminatory conduct has absolutely no place in our district," they said in a statement, adding that police were notified.
Local police, in turn, were consulting the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office to determine whether the allegations could rise to the level of a potential bias crime.
The Ridgefield district "strives to create an inclusive environment where students’ and staff members’ race, religion, national origin and sexual orientation are embraced," the School Board statement said. "[It] has absolutely no tolerance for any sort of discrimination against any student or staff member."
“We are very concerned about these allegations and urge the school district to take appropriate corrective measures following a swift and transparent investigation," CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut said in a statement Monday. "This type of insensitive language by an authority figure is unacceptable because it perpetuates stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims.”
Maksut also said that CAIR-NJ has offered the district diversity training for teachers and staff.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.