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San Diego Unified School District
administrators and teachers will have calendars showing Islamic holidays,
students will learn more about the religion in social studies classes and safe
places will be created on campuses for Muslim students as part of a
multi-tiered approach to combat Islamophobia.
Trustees on Tuesday voted 4-0, with
board member Michael McQuary absent, to approve a plan to confront Islamophobia
and bullying against Muslim students.
Stan Anjan, executive director of
Family and Community Engagement at the district, said elements of the plan will
be laid out before the end of the school year with a goal of having it in place
at the start of the fall semester.
“It’s more of a comprehensive program,
not just a curriculum,” he said. “We’re looking at it from a very integrated
and holistic approach.”
One of the first steps in the plan
will be to distribute letters to staff members and parents addressing
Islamophobia and identifying resources to learn about the religion and fight
discrimination. District calendars will be reviewed to ensure Islam holidays
are recognized, which Anjan said is important so schools will schedule campus
events that also can be attended by Muslim families.
Schools also will review and vet
materials related to Muslim culture and history in media centers and provide
resources and material for teachers.
Anjan said social studies lessons may
include more information on prominent Muslims and their impact on history and
other steps to promote a more positive image of Islam.
“Sometimes curriculum has had a much
more Eurocentric approach,” he said. “We’re now thinking of how to diversify
social studies curriculum.”
The plan also calls for a different
approach in disciplining students who bully Muslim students. Rather than
detention, the school will use a restorative justice method involving the
student who did the bullying speaking with the other student to restore their
Community groups, parents,
stake-holders and others outside the district also will be involved in the
plan, Anjan said.
The roots of the plan date to November
2015, with the school board recognized the educational work of the Council for
American-Islamic Relations, the largest American Muslim civil rights advocacy
group in the country.
A report released by CAIR that year
found 55 percent of American Muslim students surveyed in California said they
were bullied because on their religion, which was twice as high as the national
statistic of students reporting being bullied at school.
Last July, the board directed the
district staff to work with CAIR in developing a plan to address the issue.
Looking back to November 2015,
Superintendent Cindy Marten said Tuesday that the issue of Islamophobia is even
more important today.
Dhimmis Always Assume the Same Posture
The district doesn’t have data on how
many students are Muslim, but Anjan’s report to the board Tuesday included a
breakdown of incidents of bullying for various reasons from July 1 to Dec. 31,
The report showed seven bullying
incidents because of religion, although it did not specific the faith. There
were 36 reports were bullying because of race, the largest category, followed
by 21 for sex, 11 for LGBTQ identity and seven for disabilities.
Following a presidential campaign
season that saw now-President Donald Trump calling for a ban on Muslim
immigrants, there have been anecdotal reports nationwide of confrontations and
sometimes violent incidents against Muslims.
“There’s a sense of urgency around
this work, especially post-election,” Anjan said.
Counselors and teachers in schools and
colleges throughout the county have said Muslim students are feeling anxious
these days, but Anjan said he’s also seen more students wanting to work to
create more peaceful campuses.
“We’ve had students say they want to
be leaders around equality issues,” he said.
Trustees were enthusiastic about
moving ahead with the plan.
“When we create a climate where it’s
OK to celebrate diversity and difference, then it makes all of our children
safer,” said Trustee Kevin Beiser. “Not just the children who happen to be
Trustee John Lee Evans said the issue
of Islamophobia and bullying against Muslim is greater today than when the
board first called for a plan to address the issue.
“Now we have on a national stage where
people openly discuss hatred and discrimination against various groups,” he
said. We really need to redouble our efforts at a time like this.”
Tuesday’s meeting was attended by
about 150 members of San Diego’s Muslim community, including Hanif Mohebia,
executive director of the San Diego office of CAIR, who called the Tuesday
night vote an important first step.
“If we do this right, San Diego Unified
School District would be the leading school district in the nation to come up
with a robust and beautiful anti-bully and anti-Islamophobic program,” he said.
“I’m really happy we’re going toward the right direction. I am excited, but
also careful and cautious because the work ahead is something we will all be