CHESTERFIELD, Mo. - We've talked a lot about bullying over the recent weeks with several postal workers coming forward to 5 on your Side about workplace bullying.
It's a huge issue, one that continues to be a problem in schools. You're about to meet a Muslim family from Chesterfield who still can't believe the bullying they say their daughters endured.
In a quiet gated community in Chesterfield, the Huda girls are back to playing their favorite game. Sisters 10-year-old Zoha and 12-year-old Noor are thick as thieves.
They tell TISL’s Allie Corey that they’re very close.
But the bond they have now, is stronger than ever, because of something tough they went through together.
"I felt like my younger sister and me were robbed of a basic right to an education," said Noor Huda.
Education is a top priority in this family, mom and dad are from Pakistan.
They're both physicians. Tauqir Ahmed is a general and trauma surgeon and Rabya Mian an allergist. They want the best for their girls and were happy to settle in at Chesterfield Day School.
"It was a second home for the girls," said Ahmed.
Tauqir became so involved he joined the board of trustees.
Mian laughed, "Tauqir is more of a true mother than I will ever be, he's very involved."
As good as it was, Noor says she and her sister were being bullied.
"It started as early as preschool," says Noor.
She says she was picked on for being Muslim. Noor said she was called a terrorist and told color of her skin was too dark.
"I spent quite a while at the sink repeatedly scrubbing my hands because I was convinced that if I washed my hands enough, my skin color would begin to look like everyone else," Noor explained.
Noor says she told the adults at the school what was going on.
“I talked to my teachers but they wouldn't take me seriously. They did nothing to support me," she explained.
It turned physical when Noor says a boy slapped her on a school bus. That's when mom and dad got involved.
Mian said, "There were meetings, upon meetings, upon meetings without any results."
"All of our discreet requests they were not listened to,” explained Ahmed.
So Ahmed sent an email to parents at the school. The subject line read stand with Noor against bullying and assault.
In the email, he wrote about his daughters alleged abuse saying in part "never had I thought that what is best for my child and what may be in the best business interest of the school would be two different things."
Ahmed explained, "It was a time when I just wanted to go as a parent. I never wanted to advertise all of this. There is a certain social pressure and stigma involved with bullying."
Ahmed’s email was sent to parents of CDS on March 28, 2016. Days later, Ahmed received an email from the former head of Chesterfield Day School telling them their girls were expelled due to “a pattern of parental behavior that violates the terms of your enrollment agreements.”
The email went on to say, "As of today, you and your family can no longer be present on the Chesterfield Day School campus."
Holding back tears, Mian explained, "It's almost too hard to describe in words how we felt. It really is. It was agonizing. It was painful.”
“More so was the feeling of helplessness," said Ahmed.
The girls eventually ended up at Visitation Academy and are now happy and thriving.
Zoya smiled as she said, “My classmates, they accept me. I dressed up in traditional clothing and no one said anything mean or hurtful. They just said that was cool.”
But the feelings the bullies left behind are still there and that's why the family turned to Tina Meier and the people at the Megan Meier Foundation. Tina lost her daughter to suicide after she was tormented by bullies online.
The family found peace at the foundation. Noor said, "They believed us and that’s a step forward. If someone can actually believe us and support us we felt a lot better."
The experience was really hard for these girls, but it taught them a valuable lesson at a young age.
“It may be easier to hate, but it takes real strength to love,” said Noor.
We reached out to the head of school at Chesterfield Day School, Peggy Fiala. Fiala was not at the school when these events took place, but offered 5 on Your Side this statement:
"Chesterfield Day School is focused on creating a warm, nurturing environment where children can grow and develop, both academically and in character. Based on our mission and our values, we have developed policies, procedures and practices meant to facilitate such an environment and make CDS the warm, diverse, supportive community it is. Naturally, this includes student discipline policies and procedures designed to address negative behavior and give children the tools to manage relationships and resolve conflict in appropriate ways. When any report of student conduct or bullying is made that does not meet these expectations, we follow a careful plan to investigate the matter and craft a constructive resolution. I can assure you that we handled the complaints Dr. Ahmed references in your report in exactly this way.
In our view, in order to build a nurturing and trusting community, we must place confidentiality and the best interests of our students and their families first. Thus, we cannot comment further on the specific circumstances of these students’ departure from our school. I can assure you, however, that CDS has never, nor would ever, act in retaliation for any report of bullying, as Dr. Ahmed seems to suggest.
Again, if you have any questions about Chesterfield Day School’s policies, procedures or commitment to its students and their families, I would be happy to address them. As I mentioned yesterday, we hope you will come and visit our school so that you can experience the culture of CDS first-hand."
If you or someone you know is a victim of bullying, they can find help and support at the Megan Meier Foundation. Click here for information.