(ALPHARETTA, GA - 3/28/19) The Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations today announced that it held a "positive and productive" meeting with the leadership of Autry Mill Middle School in order to resolve controversy over an exhibit on Palestinian history that students displayed at the school's annual Multicultural Night both this year and last year.
During the meeting, officials confirmed that the students who arranged the exhibit will be protected from racist and Islamophobic bullying, among other reassurances.
In a statement, CAIR-Georgia Executive Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell said:
"Earlier this week, CAIR Georgia held a positive and productive meeting with the leadership of Autry Mill Middle School and Fulton County Schools, as well as the school district's legal counsel, to discuss controversy over exhibits celebrating Israeli and Palestinian culture at the school's Multicultural Night.
"During our meeting, we discussed how important it is for public schools to protect free speech, show respect for diverse cultures, avoid taking sides in political disputes, and treat all students equally.
"Although our civil rights organization strongly disagreed with the way the school district initially handled this matter, we are satisfied with their current approach. We thank the school district for confirming that: the Palestinian-American students who celebrated their culture with permission from the school cannot and will not be disciplined; racist and Islamophobic bullying of those students will not be tolerated; and Multicultural Night will continue in the future, perhaps with new guidelines, but with absolutely equal treatment for all students, their cultures, and their countries of origin.
"We also appreciate the school district's ongoing efforts to meet with a diverse array of local residents in order to build bridges of understanding. The Palestinian-American students and families who arranged the exhibit have agreed to meet with school leadership to clear the air, share their views, and move forward in a positive way.
"Finally, this incident should serve as a teachable moment for all of us, especially Americans with strong views about Israel-Palestine.
"We must learn to disagree about this topic without being disagreeable. We must learn to respect each other's cultural and historical perspectives, even when they conflict with our own. We must learn to debate each other without asking government authorities to intervene, take a side, and silence each other. We must never indulge in the twin evils of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, just as we should never level false allegations of anti-Semitism or Islamophobia against each other.
"Going forward, we hope that this situation will ultimately lead to a more educated, respectful, and united community, both inside and outside of Autry Mill Middle School."