“My child was forced to endure a horrible experience at the hands of his math teacher,” said Taliyah Holmes at a press conference in front of Darby Township School in the Southeast Delco School District Wednesday. “My son was forced to unlock his phone, and kneel and beg in front of the entire class. And still the phone wasn’t returned.”
Holmes and a number of supporters held a press conference Wednesday afternoon in front of the school to express outrage about the incident that allagedly happened near the end of school last Wednesday afternoon.
Holmes said after school that day, she got a phone call from another parent describing the incident. That evening, she asked her son, Jahiir, about the events, which she said he confirmed.
“My son is very meek and humble and soft spoken so he was kind of embarrassed and traumatized when he told the story.”
Holmes said it was at dismissal time when her son was using the phone to record another student in the hallway. The teacher saw it and took the phone and he was told to apologize to the student, which he did, she said. The student accepted the apology, after which the teacher said, “You want your phone back, I need to see you beg for it. I need to see tears for your phone,” according to Holmes.
Holmes said her son did as he was told and the teacher then said, “I don’t forgive you.” She said he also told him to kneel.
At that point, another student yelled, :Just give him his phone back,: and the teacher began yelling at that student, the mother claimed.
After speaking to her son, Holmes sent an email to Southeast Delco School District Superintendent Dr. Brenda Wynder that night. The next morning, she went to the school but was frustrated when the principal was not available. She was able to get the phone back at that time and Brian Wilson, the head of Human Resources for the district, arranged a meeting about the incident at district offices.
Holmes said the teacher was removed from duties that day and the district went virtual afterwards, due to the pandemic.
Holmes said she filed a complaint with the police. The Daily Times is not naming the teacher because he has not been charged at this time.
“Not only does this lack any logical basis, it is egregiously oppressive, dehumanizing and humiliating,” Holmes said. She compared what her son had to endure to something that would only be appropriate with a dog.
”My son will carry that trauma with him forever,” Holmes said. “Any man who would ask [students] to kneel and beg is sick and shouldn’t be allowed authority over anyone.”
Holmes said the district was aware of other incidents involving inappropriate conduct by this teacher and chose to ignore it; she claims these complaints were resolved by shuffling him from school to school.
“I am here to hold them responsible and accountable for what has happened to my son. If he [the teacher] has the audacity to perform like this in the presence of an entire classroom, imagine what he is capable of doing in private,“ she said. “I fear men like this teaching my children and yours.”
Officials at Southeast Delco were mum on the events.
“This matter is currently being investigated. Under the advice of counsel, we do not have a comment at this time,” said Dr. Wynder.
Nidir Muhammad, a supporter of Holmes and an activist in the Black Lives Matters movement, compared the incident to a slavery-era technique.
“When I first heard this story, it made me understand and think about and understand something historic in America, something called buck breaking. They would take the strongest slave and try to break them down. They would try to dehumanize them, belittle them or hurt them physically and emotionally, in front of the other slaves as they stand in line – that is what really transpired with this teacher today,” Muhammad said. “Through our research, we’ve found out a lot of other incidents at other schools where he has violated a lot of young children’s rights, human rights. We want to make sure Jahiir is taken care of for the mental and emotional turmoil he has been through.”
Holmes said she has consulted a lawyer; however, a suit has not yet been filed. Her demands are that the teacher be terminated and arrested for child abuse and child endangerment, ethnic and sensitivity training, as well as counseling for Jahiir, all the children involved in witnessing the incident, and her family.
“These disturbing allegations are reprehensible. For a teacher to forcibly confiscate a student’s phone and then make him kneel and beg in front of the class is intolerable,” said CAIR-Philadelphia Civil Rights Attorney Timothy Welbeck, who has offered to represent Holmes and Jahiir. “The district should immediately suspend the teacher pending a full and transparent investigation and offer a public apology as it works with our office and other advocates seeking accountability.”
Muhammad noted that the student that stood up for Jahiir was white.
“All these students need to have some therapy for the situation that has happened,” said Muhammad. “The district cannot continue to allow a teacher like this to be a part of this school and I don’t think he should be allowed to work anywhere with children after something like this.”