A group that advocates for Africans in the Bronx is calling for action after it says two brothers who had recently immigrated to the borough from Senegal were beaten and badly injured by several people who called them “Ebola” in school.
The 11- and 13-year-old boys, in sixth and eighth grade, respectively, were attacked Friday afternoon at I.S. 318 in Tremont, according to the African Advisory Council. Their father, Ousame Drame, said they were pummeled by other students in the schoolyard during lunch after enduring weeks of taunts.
The boys, who have been in the U.S. for about a month, were taken to the hospital after the attack.
Drame said his sons have been cruelly harassed for two weeks over Ebola. Days after news broke that the deadly disease was in the United States, he said students, whispering the word, “Ebola,” told other students not to talk to the boys. They were treated like cancers, he said.
“If they go to the gym they don’t want them touching the ball – ‘Oh, you have Ebola, don’t play with us,'” Drame said.
Though the children were raised in Senegal, they were born in America — and have every right to be here, their father said.
But Drame didn’t blame the students.
“They don’t know nothing. They’re babies,” he said.
Instead, Drame insisted the school system wasn’t doing enough to protect his children and others like them. He called on politicians and educators to spread awareness about the disease — and to step in when necessary.
Calling the attack “unacceptable,” advocates say it is just the latest incidence of disrespect and bullying of Africans since the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.
“Where was the school administrators, where was the school staff when all of this was happening?” asked Charles Cooper of the African Advisory Council as he demanded more action.
Drame said his sons will return to school, but he wants confirmation they’ll be safe — physically and emotionally.
The Department of Education says it’s aware of the complaint and that it dispatched additional security to the boys’ school. The agency said it would instruct teachers and principals to be on high alert for any potential instances of bullying or discrimination. It also said it would send information to parents to help them better understand the issue and dispel any misconceptions their children might have.
“We will not tolerate intimidation or bullying of our students, especially in this moment when New Yorkers need to come together,” Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina said in a statement.
Senegal is one of several West African countries where Ebola cases have been reported, but there have been no new cases in that country since late August, according to the CDC. The World Health Organization has declared the country “Ebola-free.”
Cases continue to be reported in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. A few health care workers and travelers coming from those countries have also been diagnosed with the disease in other countries, including one person in New York City.