Classmate Speaks Out About What School With 1 of the 13 Kids Held Captive Was Like

Jennifer Turpin
Taha Muntajibuddin/Facebook

When news first broke of the 13 Turpin children discovered shackled in their California home, their unthinkable abuse left everyone in shock. However, as increasingly disturbing details emerge about what these children went through, that shock has shifted to questions and judgment for some. Many wondered how conditions for these innocent siblings could get so bad without anyone knowing, and how it was possible that friends, family, and acquaintances never intervened. As the blame for what these kids went through is being passed around, one former classmate is explaining what it was like to go to school with one of the siblings and exactly how it was possible that nobody protected her from the house of horror that she went home to every day.


Taha Muntajibuddin went to elementary school with one of the Turpin daughters, and after discovering with the rest of the world what Jennifer went through, he decided to speak out in a powerful post on Facebook. 

"Jennifer Turpin was the one girl at Meadowcreek Elementary that nobody wanted to be caught talking to. Every grade level had a designated 'cootie kid' and she held the title for our year," he wrote. "She was a frail girl, had pin-straight hair with bangs, and often wore the same purple outfit. She was often made fun of by the other third graders because her clothes would sometimes look as though they had been dragged through mud, which she would also smell like on most days."

Muntajibuddin distinctly remembers his entire third-grade class laughing at Turpin on one occasion when their teacher told her to throw away a "scrunchy" that she had made from trash. But after that year, Turpin moved away and her classmates moved on to laughing at the next "cootie" kid without giving her another thought.

Turpin siblings
ABC News

More from CafeMom: Video of Captive Siblings 'Escaping' Surfaces Amid New Details About Their Parents

Except that years after graduating high school, Muntajibuddin started thinking about Turpin again and wondering what she was up to in life. He tried to find her on Facebook, but after some online stalking, nothing came up. "I had naturally assumed that Jennifer was one of the lucky few who hadn't been bit by the social media bug. I also thought somewhere, somehow, Jennifer was probably living her best life, showing all of us gawky third graders in Mrs. Llano's class how far she'd come," he wrote. "She was going to be that person at the reunion looking completely flawless and making six figures while the rest of us tried to conceal our receding hair lines and minimum wage jobs."

Instead, as we all later found out, Turpin and her siblings were allegedly starved and chained at the hands of their own parents. Now Muntajibuddin realizes that despite the signs all the way back in elementary school that something wasn't right, nobody did anything other than laugh. "I feel like we all kind of have that hope that those people who were marginalized growing up (sometimes by our own hands) somehow grew past those circumstances, and essentially grew up to kick ass in real life. That's what I had hoped for Jennifer," he wrote. "That she had used the insults that we hurled at her, the isolation we provided for her, and the ill-looks we gave her and used it as ammunition to forge a successful path in life. I was so sure that was what had happened, but today I was in for a rude awakening."

Turpin siblings
Inside Edition/YouTube

After reading everything that Turpin has been through, Muntajibuddin has been hit with an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame. "Of course, none of us are responsible for the events that ensued, but you can't help but feel rotten when the classmate your peers made fun of for 'smelling like poop' quite literally had to sit in her own waste because she was chained to her bed," he wrote. "It is nothing but sobering to know that the person who sat across from you at the lunch table went home to squalor and filth while you went home to a warm meal and a bedtime story."

But the reason that Muntajibuddin decided to speak out wasn't because of what he's going through since learning of his classmate's fate -- it's to grab the attention of parents everywhere. "The resounding lesson here is a simple one, something that we're taught from the very beginning: be nice," he added. "We can never completely put ourselves in others' shoes nor can we completely understand the circumstances that one is brought up in, but a simple act of kindness and acceptance may be the ray of hope that that person needs. Befriend the Jennifer Turpins of the world."

Turpin siblings
Inside Edition/Youtube

More from CafeMom: Disturbing New Details Emerge in Case of 13 Children Held Captive by Parents

Despite her being "vilified by her peers," Muntajibuddin says Turpin was one of the most pleasant people he's ever met. "She had this whimsical optimism to her that couldn't be dampened, couldn't be doused no matter what anybody threw at her. That cheerful disposition is what makes me certain that Jennifer will prevail," he wrote. "That one day, I'll remember to Facebook stalk her, and see that she is living her best life. That despite being let down by her parents and by her peers alike, Jennifer rose above it all. And I'm going to be rooting for her, as her peer, as her classmate, as her friend. Jennifer Turpin: from 'cootie girl' to 'conquered the world.'"

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