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More groups ask FBI to remove website

Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal

A national teachers union and Hispanic advocacy groups have joined the list of organizations that object to the FBI’s “Don’t Be a Puppet” website, which the agency brought online this year to educate youth about violent extremism. The website has been criticized as targeting American Muslims and encouraging the policing of thought in schools.

“Public schools should be safe havens that embrace all students and families, regardless of citizenship and national origin,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a letter this week to FBI Director James Comey. “Efforts like ‘Don’t Be a Puppet’ will only exacerbate the bullying and profiling of Middle Eastern and Muslim students by creating a culture of animosity and distrust.”

AFT represents 1.6 million public school teachers and other education workers, including more than 7,000 in New Mexico. Nineteen other organizations joined in the letter to Comey, including the League of United Latin American Citizens, the National Council of Jewish Women and AASA, and The School Superintendents Association.

In April, another coalition of groups, including the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the American Civil Liberties Union, asked the FBI to dismantle the website.

The FBI declined to comment on criticism about the website, which acknowledges that extremist thoughts are not illegal and encourages students to be tolerant and inclusive of all people. The FBI unveiled the website in February for use in schools to teach teens about violent extremism groups, both foreign and domestic, and to try to keep them from being radicalized.

The website encourages students to report suspicious behavior to teachers or others, including law enforcement. The Journal published a story about the website in March.

The website listed possible warning signs of someone planning to commit violence extremism include “talking about traveling to places that sound suspicious” and “using code words or unusual language.”

The website is an effort to combat what the FBI says is a growing problem: the recruitment, especially over the internet, of youth by violent extremism groups.

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