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San Diego Unified School Board Approves Creation Of Anti-Islamophobia Plan

San Diego Unified School Board Approves Creation Of Anti-Islamophobia Plan

GUEST:

Hanif Mohebi, executive director, Council on American-Islamic Relations San Diego chapter

Transcript

San Diego Unified School District board members voted unanimously Tuesday in favor of creating a plan to address Islamophobia and bullying of Muslim students.

More than 200 members and supporters of the city's Muslim community erupted into applause after the vote.

Earlier in the meeting, a Muslim leader urged the district to produce a plan.

"You guys are essentially the reason why this district is one of the safest in the nation," said Hanif Mohebi, executive director of the San Diego chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Mohebi also told the board that according a CAIR survey, some 55 percent of students asked said they had been bullied, while one out of five said school staff were not supportive.

"We must provide the right resources to (educators)" to lessen bullying incidents, by suggesting professional development and the proper curriculum, Mohebi said.

Mohebi said when he was harassed when he was in school, but remembered teachers who protected him.

Several students — some of whom said they were physically attacked because of their religion — also urged the district to come up a plan.

Ten-year-old Tasmeya Hammad said another girl became hostile and violent after she asked Tasmeya why her mother wore a head scarf.

"Please help us stop this kind of blame so no one else gets hurt," she added.

Superintendent Cindy Marten has been directed to produce a report this fall offering solutions on how to reduce bullying of Muslim students.

Luqmaan Bokhary, a high school student, said many Muslim students go to school in fear, which also affects their academic performance. He added that his mother, a San Diego Unified student in the 1980s, also was harassed.

During the meeting, numerous Muslim members of the audience held lime-green signs that read, "Protect our kids."

Board members Sharon Whitehurst-Payne and Kevin Beiser originally proposed the district come up with a plan.

Whitehurst-Payne said she was appalled by how some Muslim students are treated, and the district "has to get a handle on it."

Their colleague, Richard Barrera, said such harassment is not new: During the 1979-81 Iranian hostage crisis, Muslim students were bullied. He praised the young Muslim students who spoke Tuesday for "making society and our school system better."

Board member John Lee Evans commended the children for speaking out at a time when the nation's political discourse has taken a negative turn.

In praise of the speakers, Evans added that while he doesn't like to generalize, he doesn't remember hearing a "more respectful and articulate group talking about this issue."

In other matters, the board voted unanimously for a resolution calling on the California Public Employees' Retirement System and California State Teachers' Retirement System to divest their investment portfolios in fossil fuels companies, a move that some in the gallery applauded.

Senate Bill 185 requires that the district release quarterly updates on divestiture to the public.

Beiser said the district is a leader in sustainability, adding the divestment campaign is to help people realize that carbon being left in the ground is better for both the environment and economy.

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