Racial and religious bullying not an issue

For one student, who in other schools might have been the target of such bullying due in part to living in Syria for 11 years, that didn’t happen.


Bella Leous and Mary Stempky


While the Southern Poverty Law Center has reported more than 400 cases of bullying immediately after the presidential election, that was not the case and continues not to be the case here, as diversity is a core value at school.

For one student, who in other schools might have been the target of such bullying due in part to living in Syria for 11 years, that didn’t happen.

Sophomore Fares Fallouh was born in New Jersey, but his family relocated back to Syria, where he lived for more than a decade. When he was 12, Fallouh returned to the United States.

Fallouh’s life: Syria to America

Fallouh lived a particularly normal life in in the Syrian capital of Damascus. “I’d wake up at 7:00 a.m. Start school at 8:00 a.m. I’d come back from school around 2:30 and after that I’d do homework and hang out with friends,” said Fallouh.

Fallouh lived in Damascus until he was 12 years old. Around that time, the ongoing civil war started to near his home.

He said that violent events in direct correlation with the civil war happened “once a month or every two months.” Finally, the war got to a point in which Fallouh’s family didn’t feel safe anymore.

Fallouh said, ”The war got worse, and my family wanted me and my sister to be safe.”

Fallouh then started a new chapter in his life by coming to America. Although Fallouh said that he misses his friends and family in Syria, he has made many new friendships in America.

Fallouh also said he doesn’t feel like he has ever been discriminated against, but he was “more judged by my accent when I first came here.”

Fallouh also said that Cathedral has a welcoming atmosphere and nobody has bullied him.

Little to no reports 

Mrs. Kathy Saum, vice principal of student conduct, also believes that there is little to no racially or religiously motivated cases of bullying at Cathedral. Saum said, ”There’s none of it reported. I may hear some teachers talking about incidents, but they do not become a bullying issue.”

Saum handles 80% of bullying at school. She believes that she has not seen a trend in bullying regarding race or religion since the election.

“We absolutely will pull together no matter what,” said Saum when talking about how Cathedral can stay united after the election. “It’s one of the things we’re good at.”

Cathedral, united

President Mr. Rob Bridges is also a believer in Cathedral’s unity and peaceful response to the election, unlike a few students across the country who reacted to the presidential election with animosity.

“The whole presidential cycle was different,” said Bridges.

“During the election it became more normal dehumanizing things.”

Bridges said he doesn’t think Cathedral has to be associated with the chaos of the election because of the strong, unified community.

“I don’t think our school needs to be involved in the hate. There’s nothing in our faith that condones hate. It’s the opposite. It’s a commandment to love.”

Bridges stressed the importance of continuing to be a diverse and integrated school community, and supporting one of the many Holy Cross values, inclusiveness and diversity, that makes Cathedral the school it is today.

Community and diversity

Mr. Ken Barlow, vice president for community relations and diversity, has spoken publicly at school about diversity in the past, including at the Arlington assembly.

When talking about the geographics of the school community, Barlow said,”Our ethnic diversity is generally/closely representative of our city at large.”

Cathedral continues to stand as a school community throughout the presidential transition.

Fallouh is just one example of a student not letting the election or prejudices define him.

Fallouh’s advice to anyone who has been judged or bullied for their ethnicity is, ”Just ignore others and do you.”


Being born in one country, growing up in another and then moving back to the country in which one was born is an interesting experience. A student who has dealt with this first hand is sophomore Fares Fallouh.

“I lived in Syria for 10 years from (the ages of) 1-11,” Fallouh wrote via email.

He said that he and his family left Syria due to the civil unrest.

In an email, history teacher Mr. Anthony Ernst wrote that the Syrian civil war began as a reaction to the Arab Spring uprisings. “It seems the Assad government attempted to use force to suppress the Arab Spring,” Ernst said.

“(This) ignited a series of responses leading into the civil war,” Ernst continued.

Fallouh stated that his family packed up their belongings and after a 12-hour plane ride, they arrived in America.

Fallouh is able to speak Arabic. However, he does not have difficulty with English because he was taught English in Syria.

Ernst said that America has been a portion of the entirety of the global community helping to assist in the Syrian refugees. “(America has) opened its border to a select group of refugees,” Ernst stated in an email.

These refugees who have come to America are isolated from friends and relatives who still reside in Syria.

Fallouh has experienced this separation first-hand.

“I have a lot of friends and family who still live in Syria,” said Fallouh.

However, despite distance, Fallouh is able to keep in contact with relatives and friends who do not live in America.

“I talk to (my family and friends) a couple times a week, maybe two times a week,” Fallouh said.

During these conversations, Fallouh hears news about Syria’s current events and how the country is faring during this time of civil unrest. Fallouh stated, “(My family and friends) tell me if there is anything wrong (in Syria) or if it’s OK.”