Monday, May 23, 2016

HARASSMENT - Combating Islamophobia

"Teaching ‘different is OK' to combat Islamophobia in U.S. schools" PBS NewsHour 5/17/2016


SUMMARY:  According to a new study, some 50 percent of all Muslim students in the U.S. have been bullied by their peers.  In mostly-white St. Cloud, Minnesota — where thousands of east African refugees have relocated — the problem got so bad that Muslim students walked out of the city's high school en massè.  John Tulenko of Education Week takes a look at the intersection of education and Islamophobia.

JOHN TULENKO, Education Week:  Hafsa Abdi, who's 18-years-old, remembers well the day four years ago when she was first bullied for being Muslim.

HAFSA ABDI, Student, St. Cloud Technical High School:  The last day of by eighth grade year, I was just going home, and then this boy — I think he was a year younger than me — he pulled off my hijab.  And at the time, I was wearing a longer one, so it was more easy to kind of like pull off from the back.

And then I also had like a pin underneath to hold it in place.  And then that kind of came loose.  So, like, at the time I was just trying to think of like five different things at one time, like trying to get the pin to not stab me in the neck, and then turn around to see who this kid is.

JOHN TULENKO:  In high school, the bullying continued, especially when she and other Muslim students would gather to pray.

HAFSA ABDI:  Mostly, the upperclassmen, they would come into the bathroom sometimes and start fighting with the Somali girls that were trying to wash for prayer, and then when it gets reported, nothing would happen.

JOHN TULENKO:  What would they say?

HAFSA ABDI:  So they'd be like, oh, well, why are you making the bathroom dirty, you stinky Somalian or you terrorist or stuff like that, or go back to where you came from.

JOHN TULENKO:  Where Hafsa comes from is Minnesota.  She was born here, after her parents fled Somalia to escape civil war.  Thousands of other East African refugees have also come to St. Cloud, changing the face of this mostly white, mostly Catholic small city.

WILLIE JETT, Superintendent, St. Cloud Area School District 742:  My job is to make sure that all children, whether it's their children, whether it's somebody brand-new to the country, that they have the best tools available to be successful here in America, here within our community.

JOHN TULENKO:  For superintendent Willie Jett, educating the new arrivals required changes across the board.

WILLIE JETT:  What we have had to do is start from ground zero.  You're trying to make sure that, (A) All the different languages within school are welcomed.

You're trying to make sure that you have interpreters.  You're making sure that you're revamping teaching staff and support staff and the way that you hold conferences, the way that you send messages home.  It's not what it was 20, 30, 40 years ago, even 10 years ago.

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