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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Teacher in Georgia charged with making terroristic threats to children

The arrest of Benjamin Reese, a 51-year-old seventh-grade teacher at Warner Robins Middle School in Georgia.

The arrest of Benjamin Reese, a 51-year-old seventh-grade teacher at Warner Robins Middle School in Georgia, has sent shockwaves through the community. Charged with making terroristic threats and cruelty to children, the incident was triggered by a confrontation initiated by a 13-year-old Muslim student who voiced discomfort with the presence of the Israeli flag in Reese’s classroom.

Incident Unfolds

On December 7, witnesses reported hearing Reese hurling profanities and threats at three female students, one of whom found the Israeli flag offensive. Witnesses reported that Reese unleashed a barrage of profanity and abusive language, including explicit threats, as the students walked down the hallway.

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Reese’s behaviour, captured on school surveillance video, showed him following the students. Despite the lack of audio in the footage, witnesses’ accounts describe a disturbing confrontation escalating in the school corridor.

The Allegations

According to witnesses, Reese referred to one of the students as “my antisemitic friend” and accused them of disrespecting “his flag” and being ignorant. A separate adult witness reported hearing Reese threaten to “slit her throat” and observed him yelling loudly and cursing down the hallway. The incident report also mentioned Reese’s use of offensive language and a claim that he would “cut her head off for disrespecting my Jewish flag.”

Student’s Perspective

The student who found the Israeli flag offensive entered Reese’s classroom to express her concerns. She pointed to the flag, questioning its presence, to which Reese allegedly responded that he was Jewish and had family members living in Israel. The student claimed Reese became angry when she mentioned the perceived offensive nature of the flag due to the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.

As tensions rose, the student left the classroom, but Reese reportedly tried to prevent her from leaving, demanding her name and homeroom teacher. The student, feeling uncomfortable, gave him the information and walked away with her friends, who were also targeted by Reese’s alleged threats.

Heightened Tensions and Backdrop

The incident occurred against the backdrop of heightened tensions related to the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza. Reports indicate a surge in bias incidents, with both antisemitic and anti-Muslim or anti-Arab sentiments on the rise. Organisations like the Anti-Defamation League and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) have documented significant increases in reported incidents since October 7.

Response from Authorities 

The Houston County School District emphasised its commitment to the safety and well-being of students and staff, stating that Mr. Reese has not been on the school campus since December 7. CAIR-Georgia swiftly responded to the incident, welcoming Reese’s arrest and urging the Board of Education to take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian students.

Read More: Muslim girl turned away from school in France for wearing hijab files complaint with UN

The arrest of Benjamin Reese highlights the serious nature of the allegations against him, shedding light on the challenges educators face in navigating sensitive topics within diverse classrooms. As the legal proceedings unfold, it prompts a broader conversation about the responsibilities of educators and the need for a supportive and inclusive learning environment for all students.