Thursday, December 15, 2005

FBI Grills Calif. Muslim High Schooler about 'PLO' Doodle; Civil Rights Groups Demand School Board Hearing, Disciplinary Action

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Dec. 15 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San
Francisco Bay Area (LCCR) and the Sacramento Valley
office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations
(CAIR-SV) today questioned why Elk Grove School
District officials allegedly allowed FBI agents to
interrogate a 16-year-old student without first
notifying his parents.

The FBI interview concerned a doodle of the word "PLO"
(referring to the Palestine Liberation Organization)
that the student had scribbled on a binder two years

Administrators at Calvine High School apparently
violated a school board policy that requires a
student's parents be informed whenever a law
enforcement officer requests an interview on school
premises. The boy's family suspects that the teacher
who had initially confronted the student about the
drawing reported him to the FBI, chilling his right to
freedom of speech at school.

On Sept. 27, the student was pulled out of class and
taken to a room in which two men identifying
themselves as FBI agents were waiting to speak with
him. The agents asked the student to recount an
incident that had occurred two years earlier in a math
class. He told the agents that his teacher had
reprimanded him for having scrawled the letters "PLO"
on his binder. The teacher said that anyone who
supported the PLO was a terrorist.

The FBI allegedly asked how the student knew about the
PLO, whether he was familiar with the investigation of
several Muslims in Lodi, whether he had ever traveled
to Palestine, and whether he had pictures of
terrorists on his cell phone. (In fact, the student
had only a picture of a mosque as his phone's
background display.) The entire experience left the
student badly shaken, and he has since been hesitant
about expressing his political views in any context.

"It's outrageous that the FBI dragged this student out
of class to interrogate him about a two-year-old
doodle on a notebook," said Shirin Sinnar, an attorney
at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights. "The FBI
should not be interviewing kids about their political
views, and schools should not be short-circuiting the
involvement of parents in such a frightening

"The practice of interrogating minors, without their
parents present, is totally unacceptable and stresses
the importance of better training for agents," said
CAIR-SV Executive Director Basim Elkarra.
"Unfortunately, this disturbing incident will only
serve to undermine efforts to build better relations
between law enforcement agencies and the Muslim

Elkarra asked that those responsible for the incident
be disciplined.

To obtain a copy of the letter that LCCR and CAIR sent
to the Elk Grove School Board, contact Alexandra
Gross, LCCR Communications Coordinator, at
415-543-9444. Contact Basim Elkarra at 916-441-6269,
or e-mail:

CAIR, America's largest Muslim civil liberties group,
has 31 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada.
Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam,
encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower
American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote
justice and mutual understanding.


NOTE: CAIR offers an e-mail list designed to be a
journalist's window to the American Muslim community.


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