EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Officials are calling it a bias incident, but not a hate crime. Still, some are wondering why both students involved in a violent New Jersey high school melee were punished.
Disturbing cell phone video circulating on social media shows a vicious fight unfolding at East Brunswick High School. A teacher is seen trying to break up a brawl between two girls.
"I witnessed a Muslim girl on floor and she was being senselessly beaten by other girl," one witness said.
"She was shouting help and stop… I saw her being spat on."
The local community showed up in force at Thursday night's school board meeting to discuss what officials are calling a bias incident.
Authorities said the two high schoolers, one of them Muslim, were arguing over a seat Wednesday when it turned physical.
"Ultimately the incident was determined to be biased and reported to the east Brunswick Police Department" East Brunswick schools superintendent Victor Valeski said.
"I want to personally apologize to the Muslim community for the event… for impact it's had."
"Happening at my school cafeteria that I enter from, that is scary to me… Coming to school the next day, I'm like gotta be careful who I talk to, I can't tell anyone I'm Muslim," student Ramsha Singh claimed.
Based on board of education policy, both students involved were punished.
In a letter to the community, officials say the perpetrator is facing more severe consequences after being arrested and charged with assault, harassment, and cyber harassment – after also posting an offensive statement on social media.
Supporters of the Muslim student say she is not at fault and should not be penalized.
"She's really nice, everyone loves her," student Gabrielle Goins said.
Many are hoping this incident will spark important dialogue.
"This is a larger part of so-called Islamophobia which is raising its head all over country," one person said at the school board meeting.
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