- The Office of Civil Rights now requires schools to track bullying and harassment incidents based on a student’s religious beliefs, following a national spike in anti-Muslim sentiment.
- The Huffington Post reports Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative counted more acts of anti-Muslim violence and vandalism last year than at any time since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and a California survey in 2014 found 55% of Muslim students were bullied based on their religious identity.
- An informal survey of 2,000 teachers last spring by the Southern Poverty Law Center further found that more than one-third of respondents saw an increase in either anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant beliefs in their schools since the start of the presidential election cycle.
Education leaders and policymakers respond to data. The act of collecting and reporting data about religious-based bullying will inevitably bring more attention to the issue, the same way that new requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act about reporting graduation rates of students who are homeless will likely prompt a renewed focus among schools on helping these students get their diplomas.
Administrators, however, must create school environments in which students feel safe reporting. Reporting about the number of sexual harassment incidents in schools is laughably low when considering student responses to anonymous surveys asking if they experience such discrimination. It takes work to change this. Students have to know they should report and how they can. They also need to know what constitutes harassment. Explainers can be embedded in early overviews of the student handbook and school policies, but schools should also review this information throughout the year.