In blurry and chaotic smartphone footage, a Muslim student and another girl tumble to the ground in a flurry of blows, and a teacher tries to break up the fight.
Investigators in New Jersey have determined that the Muslim student was possibly targeted Wednesday because of her religion or race in what the mayor of East Brunswick called a “bias incident,” saying punishments have been handed out — to both students.
Students and community members packed an East Brunswick school board meeting Thursday to decry what the mayor described as the school administration’s zero-tolerance policy that disciplines all students involved in altercations.
Some media reports indicated the Muslim student was suspended, though school officials did not say what punishment was handed down.
Police charged the girl who allegedly attacked the Muslim student with simple assault, harassment, cyber harassment and disorderly conduct, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement. The girls have not been identified because they are younger than 18.
A spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office declined to answer questions about the investigation.
East Brunswick Mayor Brad J. Cohen said police investigators reviewed an “inflammatory” Snapchat video posted by the girl who allegedly committed the assault, which helped determine that the incident amounted to a “bias incident” but did not rise to the level of a hate crime.
Students said the Muslim student’s hijab was ripped from her head, NJ.com reported.
“When any group is targeted, we, in East Brunswick, must stand united in our resolve to put a swift end to such actions,” Cohen said in a statement. School services have been marshaled for the Muslim student, he said, and the city is holding community forums to discuss the incident.
Cohen also responded to criticism that the Muslim student was being unfairly punished even after investigators determined the alleged crime against her was probably motivated by religion or race. “The perpetrator was given a far worse punishment,” he said.
The altercation arose over a seat before class, East Brunswick schools superintendent Victor Valeski said in a brief statement that did not address the punishments handed down. Valeski did not return a request for comment.
Students at the school criticized responses from officials and what hostility the incident may have revealed.
"I need to be careful who I talk to. I can’t tell anybody that I’m Muslim,” Ramsha Singh told WLNY.