State and national Muslim advocacy groups are calling for an investigation into the suicide of 14-year-old Rezwan Kohistani in Missouri on the grounds of a system failure and alleged bullying.
Kohistani was found dead on the grounds of his school, Webb City High School on May 5. Police reported he had hung himself.
The teenager and his family fled to the United States in the aftermath of the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, according to The Daily Beast.
Kohistani was placed at Webb City High School once his family settled in Missouri, however, all was not well for the teenager.
He had been skipping school, failing exams, and had trouble with his English language skills. On several occasions, Kohistani was reprimanded for text messages being sent to his cellphone during class, despite the device being the only method available to him to translate English to Dari Persian, his native language.
Bullying has been alleged, with several families in the area saying it may have been due to his Muslim faith. The Daily Beast said Webb City Superintendent Tony Rossetti accepted the school’s responsibilities, especially the language barrier.
According to The Kansas City Star, Kohistani said he planned to move to Joplin, Missouri, and live with his uncle. Then, in late April, his family planned to move to Dallas, Texas, and the school was notified of this by a refugee nonprofit.
However, school officials said in emails they could not transfer his credits to another school because of his failing grades.
According to CAIR, a Muslim nonprofit organization, there was a lack of community integration and support.
“Given the circumstances of Rezwan’s death and the pattern of anti-Muslim and racist bullying to which he had allegedly been subjected, we call on law enforcement authorities to be thorough, transparent and comprehensive in their investigation of what led to his death,” said Yasir Ali, the board chair of the CAIR Missouri chapter in a statement.
New information shows that Kohistani and his three siblings who were placed in the school were not given the support they needed. The school did reach out to the NGO RAISE, a refugee support group that helps with transitions, but it took three weeks for them to respond.
The Kansas City Star said the school enrollment specialist, Madeline Bridgford, took a while to respond to a teacher’s email inquiring about cultural training for teachers.
In another email, when the teacher asked what grades the four children will be placed in, the specialist responded saying, “I’m only part-time and it’s actually insane how just an incredible amount of things need attention every day!!”
At the moment, the school system is reexamining its support systems for refugee students and students who consider English their second language.
A special counselor for English students is also being considered for the high school as well.
For the time being, Rossetti said the school is waiting on the police to conclude their investigation of Rezwan’s death. He hopes that inquiry provides some explanation to the family and to the school.
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