Two students have been expelled from a Washington DC school after they sent a bomb threat using a Muslim student’s email account.
The two boys, both high-school seniors at Washington Latin Public Charter School sent an email with the subject line “bomb,” to more than 600 current and former students using a fellow Muslim student’s email account, US newspaper reported. The email stated, “Friday there will be big boom.”
The head of the school, Martha Cutts, said the two boys were expelled after sending out the email for threatening violence. “I was never really worried that it was a real threat, but you have to obviously take those things very seriously,” Cutts said. “It can be very unsettling for students to open an email and read that.”
The incident at Washington Latin Public Charter School was one of opportunistic identity fraud and not one of hacking, Cutts added.
Delving into details regarding the incident, the school head further said, upon opening a laptop during class the two students discovered that the previous user who happened to be a Muslim had left his school email account signed in. Using the opportunity the pair sent a short email to students in grades eight and above, as well as two classes of alumni, Cutts said.
However, school administrators were able to figure out which laptop had sent the message and the location of the laptop when the email was sent. With that information in hand it was not difficult to figure out who was to blame for the email.
Speaking about the Muslim student, Cutts said he received a lot of support from other students.
Commenting on the incident, spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Ibrahim Hooper said the email should be considered “anti-Muslim bullying and a hate crime.’”
“It’s based on the overall atmosphere of Islamophobia in our society,” Hooper said. If the students weren’t “hearing and seeing this kind of anti-Muslim sentiment in their daily lives, they wouldn’t have even thought to use a Muslim student’s email account to send a bomb threat.”
Referring to the rise in anti-Muslim incidents since the Paris and San Bernardino attacks, the CAIR spokesperson blamed the anti-Muslim rhetoric of Donald Trump and other politicians for helping make Islamophobia part of mainstream culture. “It’s been a really bad few months,” he said.
Further, Cutts said that incidents like these are “absolutely teachable moments” explaining that whenever she has had to expel a student, she speaks to the school to explain what happened and what the consequences were. She said the email threat was a perfect example of the power of words and the need to use them wisely and respectfully.
“One of the things we say at our school,” Cutts said, “is words matter.”