San Diego schools defend effort to fight Islamophobia

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Books and blackboard, school supplies, back to school

Cii Radio| Ayesha Ismail| 28 April 2017| 01 Shabaan 1438

One of the nation’s largest school districts is defending its campaign to fight Islamophobia and promote understanding of Muslim culture against critics who say it is favouring a religion.

Kevin Beiser, vice president of the San Diego Unified School District board, said on Tuesday that the effort is modelled on a plan he advanced several years ago to protect LGBT students. He said bullying of Muslim students is pervasive and vastly under reported.

“Muslim students are constantly being harassed, spit on, verbally abused, pushed, shoved, their hijabs are being pulled,” he said, calling it a “serious problem probably in every public school in the country”.

Critics planned a protest at Tuesday’s school board meeting but no one in the audience rose to speak for or against the effort and there were no visible signs of opposition.

The multiyear plan includes ensuring staff calendars include Muslim holidays, reviewing library materials on Muslim culture, providing resources to teachers and engaging in partnerships with the Council on American Islamic Relations.

The district also plans to consider high school clubs that promote American Muslim culture, create “safe spaces” for students and train staff about Muslim culture. The district is reviewing internal staff calendars to make sure Muslim holidays are recognised.

A letter outlining plans will be sent to staff and parents of its 132 000 students. It’s expected to go out before Ramadan begins in late May.

The plan drew little attention when the board approved it 4-0 on April 4, with one member absent. Public comments from staff and community members were uniformly positive.

“We believe this is a great first step in the direction of protecting Muslim students from the bullying that is a direct result of the growing Islamophobia in our state and nation,” Hanif Mohebi, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ San Diego chapter, said after the vote. “Other school districts should follow this lead, and we will be happy to work with them to provide resources and trainings.”

Source – News 24