'Emotionally Unsafe Zone:' Student Suspended for Debating Islamic Extremism with Muslim Peer in Debate Club
Officials allegedly said it could be ‘harassing,’ told him to observe ‘social cues’
A Missouri high school that suspended a student for making critical comments about Islamic extremism says he’s not allowed to appeal the finding of wrongdoing.
Senior Alex Lonsdale, a member of Liberty High’s nationally ranked debate club, says he was just trying to have a friendly debate.
During his free period Oct. 17 at the public school near Kansas City, Lonsdale joined a spontaneous conversation among acquaintances about the nature of Islam.
He told The College Fix in a phone call Monday that he pointed to pro-terrorist sentiment among British Muslims, as indicated in polls by ICM Research for the 2016 Channel 4 documentary “What British Muslims Really Think.” The program was presented by the former chair of Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Phillips.
A Muslim sophomore also in the debate club, Faraz Pervaiz, allegedly challenged Lonsdale’s viewpoint on account of his own religious beliefs.
Both students had experience debating policy issues in the club, currently ranked second in the nation by the National Debate & Speech Association, where Liberty competes annually during its national competition.
Lonsdale and a debate partner shared a semifinal placement at the Grain Valley High School New Year Novice Kickoff this year, while Pervaiz and his partner tied for first in policy debate at a high school tournament in December 2016, according to The Kansas City Star.
But the impromptu debate on Islamic extremism, by Lonsdale’s retelling, turned into a raucous imbroglio.
“Why are you making my religion out to be like that?” Lonsdale said Pervaiz asked him. The Muslim student became reticent, apparently no longer wanting to continue debating, before he ended the conversation by leaving, according to Lonsdale.
“I wasn’t saying that ‘you’re a bad kid because you’re Islamic,’” he told The Fix. “I wasn’t being rude. I didn’t personally attack him at all.”
Lonsdale is not the only member of his family to court controversy in an educational setting.
As treasurer of the Young Americans for Liberty chapter at the University of Missouri this spring, his brother Chris was escorted out of a student government meeting for claiming that a candidate ticket tried to rig a disputed election.
‘Emotionally unsafe zone’
Three days after the short-lived debate, Alex Lonsdale was called into a meeting with the principal and vice principal, where he said he was asked to explain the statements that Pervaiz alleged he made.