On Wednesday, the American Federation of Teachers, civil and human rights organizations, faith leaders and community groups came together to issue a letter to the FBI condemning its Don’t Be a Puppet program. In an attempt to educate students and their families about violent extremism, this program does the opposite; it promotes bigotry and hatred, and doubles-down on the problematic law-enforcement strategy of profiling.
“Public schools should be safe havens that embrace all students and families, regardless of citizenship and national origin. They should instill civic pride, not fear and suspicion,” said the AFT and other organizations in the two-page letter sent to FBI Director James Comey. “As educators and advocates, we have worked hard to provide safe, welcoming places of learning, free from harassment and discrimination, where all our children feel safe, welcomed and valued. The strength of the American public school system lies in its diversity and inclusion.”
The letter, which was signed by 19 organizations, including the League of United Latin American Citizens and AASA, The School Superintendents Association, also highlights why programs like Don’t Be a Puppet create fertile ground for bullying and hateful rhetoric: “The harmful effects of such a campaign cannot be overstated. Racial profiling is marginalizing and will take an emotional and psychological toll on innocent children. A generation of children is growing up living in fear due to the current hateful rhetoric in the public arena targeted at their families and communities. Efforts like Don’t Be a Puppet will only exacerbate the bullying and profiling of Middle Eastern and Muslim students by creating a culture of animosity and distrust.”