The U.S. Department of Education is going to increase its monitoring of Islamophobia in public schools amid troubling series of stories showing Muslim students facing discrimination, abuse and harassment.
The department announced a series of initiatives last week to more closely watch for possible violations of federal anti-discrimination laws in schools. The agency's Office for Civil Rights said it would require schools to report the number of incidents of religious-based bullying or harassment for the first time and created an updated online form for filing discrimination complaints. The department also announced a new website explaining U.S. laws on religious discrimination, a collaboration with the Justice Department and several other initiatives.
While there are no federal laws directly forbidding religious discrimination and harassment against students, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, protects students from, as the DOE website puts it,
discrimination, including harassment, based on a student’s actual or perceived: shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, or citizenship or residency in a country with a dominant religion or distinct religious identity.
These actions feel both necessary, but at the same time not enough, given the problems Muslim students have reported facing in public schools in the last year. Among the more prominent incidents include:
- The family of a 12-year-old Muslim boy at a Long Island school is suing the district after he was allegedly forced by the school's principal to write a letter confessing to being a member of the Islamic State terrorist group.
- 50 Idaho State University students from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia were targeted with burglary and vandalism.
- A Muslim Wichita State University student was attacked at a gas station by a man chanting "Trump, Trump, Trump."
- Speakers at a Florida Atlantic University panel organized by the Muslim Student Association were heckled for speaking about Islamophobia.
- A survey by the Southern Poverty Law Center found Muslims and other minority students are being singled out for Donald Trump-inspired bullying.
- A Virginia school was forced to close briefly after anger from the community regarding a homework assignment involving Arabic calligraphy.
- A Muslim New Jersey teacher sued her former school district over claims she was fired for screening a documentary about Malala Yusufzai.
- Social media threats at a South Carolina school threatened the lives of Jewish and Muslim students.
- A Muslim student at Stanford University received threats after being featured in an advertisement for the school's football team wearing a hijab.
- A California high school's yearbook incorrectly identified a Muslim student named Bayan Zehlif as "Isis Phillips."
- It's been a year since Muslim teenager Ahmed Mohamed made headlines when he was arrested for bringing a home-made clock to school.
How many of these stories do there need to be before a pattern emerges? I suppose the U.S. Department of Education will find out after it collects the data.