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Survey: More than half California's Muslim students don’t feel safe in school

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CAIR
A statement from a 12-year-old San Diego student about the bullying she experienced released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations on Oct. 26, 2021.

More than half of the students surveyed across California said they do not feel safe at school because they are bullied for their Muslim heritage, according to the report released Thursday by the California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

The report documents cases of bullying and discrimination against Muslim students in California. That’s the highest percentage that CAIR California has documented since the survey started in 2013.

"The kids that are being surveyed are right here. They go to school with your children and my children," said Tazheen Nizam, associate executive director of CAIR San Diego, which participated in the survey. "It’s not just Islamophobia. It’s any form of racial discrimination and any form of being different.”

Nizam said responsibility rests with parents and other adults who model behavior.

“Muslim students continue to face high levels of Islamophobic bullying at school,” CAIR California CEO Hussam Ayloush said. “It is disturbing that nearly one of three female respondents (30.12%) who wear a hijab, reported their hijab was tugged, pulled, or offensively touched. As students have resumed in-person learning, school districts must take proactive steps in these initial months to ensure learning environments across the state that are free from hostility and discrimination for their Muslim populations.”

Adjustments by school districts and educators, over the past year, demonstrate that change is possible when administrators are forced to act.

“The pandemic showed us that most school districts have a capacity to adapt and grow their learning models to support the safety and well-being of their students, and we commend them for that," Nizam said.

“These efforts also make it apparent that school districts have the capability to proactively protect their students against bullying, resulting from Islamophobia, and to implement a zero-tolerance policy against any form of discrimination," he added. "The CAIR-SD office invites San Diego county school administrators and teachers to connect with us in helping combat Islamophobia in our schools, Our teams can provide training, reading materials, and lesson plans that accurately portray Islam. Let us work towards a more inclusive way of learning and growth for our future leaders”

Survey: More than half California's Muslim students don’t feel safe in school

The report, titled “CAIR-California’s 2021 Bullying Report: Examining Islamophobia in California Schools,” is based on findings from a statewide survey of 708 Muslim students between the ages of 11 and 18.

The report is the fifth in CAIR-CA’s series of biennial reports documenting the rates of bullying of Muslim students in California. The 2021 survey and report also examined how the pandemic affected the way these students experienced bullying.