From the Civil Rights Desk

From the Civil Rights Desk

As you may recall, last month I mentioned that the hateful speeches made by politicians during this year’s toxic election cycle coupled with the undisputable rise of Islamophobia for the year, meant that more American Muslim students would likely be on the receiving end of some form of Islamophobia during the 2016-2017 school year. Unfortunately, that proved to be the case for last month.

As the new school year progressed, one community member’s 7th grade son suffered aggressive bullying led by multiple classmates at his middle school. Unfortunately, this was not the first year our client was the target of bullying and racial slurs. However, this was the most egregious. The bullying became so ruthless that students were paying each other to use racial slurs like, “ISIS” and “Terrorist” against our client. This had damaging impacts on the child’s emotional health and performance in school. As a result, he stopped attending school.

It is important to make note that the father made several attempts with the middle school in the past to address the bullying his son faced, but there were little to no results. Desperate for help, the father reached out to our office to report the latest bullying incident. After listening to his complaint, CAIR-SFBA stepped in right away to meet with the school principle, a member from the school board district, school counselor, and the father to discuss the outrageous harassment. At the conclusion of the meeting, the school vowed to take several measures to protect our client and other targeted minorities from future harassment, gave plans for mitigating the bullying climate, including holding a school assembly to address the issue, and also provided additional resources to make school a safe place to learn for the client again. The middle school also expressed great interest in CAIR-SFBA providing an Islamophobia awareness presentation for their staff so that staff could be culturally sensitive to the issues American Muslim students face today.

Thankfully, our client is now back at school. He is feeling much more confident walking down the school halls knowing he has the support of his family, his school and his community behind him. While this case is meant to highlight the lasting impact Islamophobia has on American Muslim students in the Bay Area, it is also meant to illustrate the different ways CAIR can support American Muslim students and the schools they attend on matters that involve Islamophobia-inspired harassment.

CAIR-SFBA is committed toward standing against all forms of Islamophobia and protecting the interests of American Muslims in the Bay Area. State laws require schools to protect students from harassment and discrimination. Schools MUST prohibit bullying based on religion, race, and nationality. Problems Muslim students typically face include pulling of headscarf or kufi, pressure to convert to another religion, insulting comments about Islam made on school grounds, and physical abuse. Students have rights.

If you or a loved one experience a hate crime or hate incident, no matter how small you may think it is, we strongly urge you to report it immediately. All reports to CAIR are confidential and there is no charge for our services.

Saba Maher
Civil Rights Coordinator