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Don’t Target Our Children: FBI’s “Don’t Be a Puppet” Website in Schools Must be Dropped

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Washington, DC | KARAMAH | November 6, 2015 – KARAMAH along with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and the Sikh Coalition welcome the temporary suspension of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) “Don’t Be a Puppet” website.

The FBI agreed to delay the launch of the website after receiving criticism from the represented organizations. Our groups strongly affirm that the web-based program and its lineage must not enter our public schools.  The FBI’s limited action of temporarily suspending the website is insufficient to address the underlying problem: the FBI shouldn’t target children nor require teachers to police and surveil classrooms. We collectively demand that the FBI abandon all efforts to implement the “Don’t Be a Puppet” program and/or its lineage.

The “Don’t Be a Puppet” web-based program is aimed at middle school and high school students.  The program includes “games” and exercises that perpetuate stereotypes and unreliable indicators that certain youth are “at risk” of radicalization. For example, the exercises pose quiz format questions the FBI considers of interest and draws inferences from innocuous behavior like attending a political protest or feeling emotional. Another fact pattern described a youth with a common Muslim-sounding name posting on Facebook that he’s going overseas and asking if “anyone wants to chat?”

Bullying and discrimination is rampant in America’s schools. This web-based program will only exacerbate this mistreatment. It will lead to the “othering” of children of color which will ensure more bullying, bias, and racial and religious profiling. Arab and Muslim students, and those perceived to be Arab or Muslim will be singled out, targeted, and reported to the FBI. Students who support the Black Lives Matter movement and other social and political causes- First Amendment protected activity- will be singled out, targeted, and reported to the FBI.

This program is another example of the FBI overreaching into sectors that are best managed by others, including teachers, curriculum developers, and educators. “Don’t Be a Puppet” infringes on freedom of thought in our classrooms, and we demand that it be permanently dropped.