A video of an Indian American boy being violently bullied by his white classmate on 11 May in Texas has gone viral, creating outrage on social media.
The video was shot in the school cafeteria and shared by classmates from Coppell Independent School District (Coppell ISD) in the city of Coppell, Texas.
It shows the Indian American boy, identified as Shaan Pritmani in a petition on change.org, being asked to get up from his seat by a bully, who rapidly becomes more and more aggressive.
In the disturbing video, Pritmani refuses to get up after his aggressor tries to intimidate him into doing so, following which the latter tries to strangulate him.
Pritmani still refuses to bow down and grabs the hand of the bully, pushing it away.
This leads to the bully pressing Pritmani's neck from behind with his elbow, forcing him down against his seat until he falls off.
Even after falling off, the bully holds Pritmani down by the shoulders, and then tries to lift him up, which is when the viral video ends.
'Shaan Got Stricter Punishment Than the Bully'
Shaan Pritmani's father, Kamlesh Pritmani, who is a US citizen and has lived in the country for 20 years, spoke to The Quint about the distressing incident.
"There were many kids in the cafeteria last Wednesday," Kamlesh Pritmani explained. "Friends share the same table at lunch. Shaan was going to the same table for lunch for more than a year."
"Recently, Nichloas Wellington started coming to that table and started telling Shaan that 'no one likes you on the table, please go elsewhere.' On Tuesday, Nick told Shaan - 'If you keep coming to this table, I will make you leave this table. Then on Wednesday, this happened'."Kamlesh Pritmani, father of Shaan Pritmani
Kamlesh Pritmani goes on to say that his son is being treated extremely unfairly by the school authorities.
The assistant principle, he said, himself "called us saying that 'your kid has been in a physical altercation' – that is when two people are physically fighting with each other, but the video says otherwise. Shaan was being assaulted. He said Shaan will be on three-day school suspension. Shaan told me that, the guy (Nick) got only one-day suspension. They investigated the incident by getting other kids (eyewitnesses)."
"Shaan told me that the assistant principal was literally hammering on the table while questioning Shaan about why they were using the word molestation. Shaan was intimidated and he didn't say much," Pritmani added.
Petition Demands 'Aggressor Be Removed' From School
According to an online petition started by Shaan's mother, Sonika Kukreja, "The school stated that the victim (Shaan) was at fault and received a 3-day ISS, while the aggressor only received a 1-day ISS."
The school has also informed the parents that they have seen the video of the "altercation" and that "there will be no change in the course of action."
Addtitionally, the petition says that the Coppell ISD SRO officer refused to file a citation because the school administration requested against it as there have been "too many bullying complaints lately."
The Coppell PD has also "dropped the ball."
The petition demands that "the aggressor be removed from my son's school immediately."
"Shaan should never have to take a class, interact, or pass the hallways with this aggressor ever again. Shaan should be able to continue his school experience, friendships and extra-curricular activities with zero worry of ever having to cross paths with this student again. He does not feel safe," it adds.
Other Indian Americans Come Out in Active Support
Subbu Venkat, an Indian-American IT professional who also lives in Coppell, told The Quint that the school district board has covered up bullying incidents in the past.
"I worked closely with the board. In the past they have covered up a lot of bullying, in part because they want to bring in builders and get taxes. I have spoken to families as I volunteer with Coppell Allies who volunteer for city projects, and many families said similar things about bullying being covered up."Subbu Venkat
"There are elected Indian Americans in the city, like Manish Shetty who is a Secretary in school district board, and Biju George is in the City board."
The Quint tried reaching out to Shetty, but he is yet to respond to our request for comment.
"My child is in Coppell Middle East, Shaan is in Coppell Middle North. 40-50 percent public school students are Indian Americans in Coppell Independent School District. He was bullied and was on chokehold. The child who bullied Shaan is a wrestler and his Dad lost in the last primary election for school board. He lost, but is well connected. Shaan’s parents are regular middleclass folks. I heard about the incident when I saw a WhatsApp message in an Indian group, then Facebook and the Change.org petition," Venkat added.
Ram Mehta, who is a resident of Frisco (a suburb of Dallas) and an owner of three restaurants, told The Quint that "Shaan is doing well" and that "his parents are overwhelmed with hundreds of calls from people with support and suggestions."
Mehta has been aiding the family in getting the incident publicised.
"Me and my friend suggested that Shaan's mom create the Change.org petition. I created the protest walk to the district board office as there is a school board meeting on 23 May. People helping me are Tony Singh of the council of a nearby city, and Keely, who is a white lady, is in touch with Shaan's mom. Her husband is Indian and is a big help in this."
Mehta concludes by saying that "our desis, they here have no backbone, there are two desi members on the Coppell school board, but no help from them, they are only there when it is time to ask for votes."
"There is a lesson for all of us, which is that we are so divided in our desi community. So desis, unite! Our community in Coppell has a lot of Indians but it takes an incident like this to unite us."
(Savita Patel is a San Francisco Bay Area-based journalist and producer. She reports on Indian diaspora, India-US ties, geopolitics, technology, public health, and environment. She tweets at @SsavitaPatel.)