Marie and Iqbal Bhombal are sitting in their attorney’s office. Their two children, a boy and a girl, are playing quietly nearby.
They are here because they said it’s been tough for their 9-year-old son. The Muslim parents believe their biracial son has been the target of racial and religious taunts in school and that it’s gone on for years. Now the family has filed a federal lawsuit against Irving Independent School District.
“You see this happen to other people, so finally when it happens to you, I mean, then it hits you in the gut,” said Iqbal Bhombal, the boy’s father. “I hope something good comes out of all of this.”
WFAA has decided not to show the boy’s face or provide his name to protect his identity.
According to the lawsuit, the Bhombal’s son was wrongly accused of having a bomb in his lunchbox earlier this year. He’s been called a “Tally” by students – a derogatory word for Taliban. The lawsuit describes other incidents that they claim prove their son was being unfairly targeted at John Haley Elementary School for being half Indian and a practicing Muslim.
“Justice means equal protection, justice means not being discriminated against, justice means not having hatred and bullying against your 9-year-old kid in a public school,” said the Bhombal’s attorney Howard M. Rosenstein. “These are good people, these are nice people, these are people that deserve our respect. They have a family here, they’ve been married for 20 years, yet they’re treated like third class citizens.”
The accusation of a lunchbox bomb before spring break was unfounded, according to the lawsuit. Still, their son was suspended for a day. And for unknown reasons, Iqbal Bhombal was given a criminal trespass warning in March and has been banned from the school.
Although the school district will not comment specifically on the Bhombal’s suit, the district spokeswoman did say it is “rare” to give out a criminal trespass warning.
With one parent unable to be on school property, the couple said they have had to find alternate ways to arrange school drop-off and pick-up, as well as provide their son a kosher lunch.
“It makes me feel humiliated, upset and sad,” Iqbal Bhombal said. “It was uncalled for what they did to me and our family.”
Irving ISD declined to comment, but said in a statement: “In Irving ISD, we value all of our students and their families. Our educators and administrators are committed to providing a safe learning environment where all students can learn and achieve their maximum potential.”
“Obviously as parents, we both want what’s best for our child,” Marie Bhombal said. “We want him to be treated normally and now he’s being set aside and singled out, and its hurtful and it’s frustrating.”
Irving ISD is the same school district where in 2015 Ahmed Mohamed – then a 14-year-old freshman in high school – was arrested after school authorities mistook an alarm clock for a homemade bomb.
At the time, a federal investigation was launched into allegations that students have been harassed and discriminated against at Irving ISD schools. A justice department official said via email that the investigation remains open but declined to comment beyond that.
“It’s been a struggle to remind him how much he is loved, that nobody is going to come and take him away, that Mommy and Daddy are going to do what we can to protect him,” Marie Bhombal said. “It’s hard, it’s very difficult, emotionally, mentally. It’s just very trying.”