Muslim students in CA bullied at twice the national average, report finds

Over the past two years, the biannual CAIR bullying report, entitled “Singled Out: Islamophobia in the Classroom and the Impact of Discrimination on Muslim Students,” shows bullying toward Muslim students in California has declined. It’s down from 52 percent to 40 percent of those Muslim students who were surveyed. But the report’s editor, Ammad Rafiqi, says that’s still twice the national average.
“We believe that the rates and the numbers that we see are the result of the hateful rhetoric that is funneled by the Trump administration, which has fueled an increase in hate speech, hate incidents, and hate crimes,” he said.
At a morning news conference Wednesday at its Santa Clara headquarters, CAIR members said the rate spiked shortly after the last presidential election, when Washington placed a travel ban on people entering the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
The 1,500 students surveyed in California, ranging from 11-to-18 years of age, reported teasing, stereotyping, and assaults such as pulling of head coverings.
“I’ve got two kids. That means one out of two kids has a chance of being bullied in school simply for being Muslim. That is too high a rate for us as parents," said Eman Tai, a parent and member of the Dublin Unified School District Citizen’s Board Oversight Committee.
The decline of 12 percent since 2017 is believed due to the impact of two-state assembly bills that became law – AB 2291 and 2485. Both are geared toward protecting Muslims and other targeted groups from bullying. At the local level, many school districts have adopted a strict non-bullying code of conduct, including in San Jose.
“Bullying is systematic and it’s usually repeated. It’s generally about a power imbalance between two students,” said Dane Caldwell-Holden, the San Jose Unified School District student services director.
He says over the past few years, the school district expanded and updated the student handbook section covering bullying.
“We’ve seen a decrease in the amount of all suspensions over the course of the last seven years. Our students are, generally speaking, getting along better. And are engaging in less inappropriate behavior,” said Caldwell-Holden.
CAIR officials say they’re cautiously optimistic the gains the past few years will translate into an overall downward trend. Especially when they say what happens at the top affects behavior beyond Washington.
“While we still have the administrations that we do that continue to channel and pedal Islamaphobic stereotypes, we’ll still have those problems,” said Rafiqi.