San Diego Unified has a plan to fight Islamophobia and bullying

San Diego Unified School District administrators and teachers will have calendars showing Islamic holidays, students will learn more about the religion in social studies classes and safe places will be created on campuses for Muslim students as part of a multi-tiered approach to combat Islamophobia.

Stan Anjan, the district’s executive director of family and community engagement, said elements of the plan approved this week will be laid out before the end of the school year — with a goal of having it in place at the start of the fall semester.

“It’s more of a comprehensive program, not just a curriculum,” he said. “We’re looking at it from a very integrated and holistic approach.”

The plan also calls for a different approach in disciplining students who bully Muslim students. Rather than detention, the school will use a restorative-justice method involving the student who did the bullying speaking with the other student.

A 2015 report released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations found that 55% of Muslim American students surveyed in California said they had been bullied because of their religion. In July, the San Diego school board directed district staff to work with CAIR in developing a plan to address the issue locally.

The district doesn’t have data on how many of its students are Muslim. But a report Anjan presented to the board this week that included a breakdown of bullying incidents in the last six months of 2016 showed that seven were rooted in religion, although it did not specify the faiths of those involved. There were 36 reports for bullying because of race, followed by 21 for sex, 11 for LGBTQ identity and seven for disabilities.

Following a presidential campaign in which Donald Trump called for a ban on Muslim immigrants, Anjan said, he’s seen more students wanting to work to create peaceful campuses.

“We’ve had students say they want to be leaders around equality issues,” he said.

Hanif Mohebi, executive director of the San Diego office of CAIR, called the school board’s vote this week an important first step.

“If we do this right, San Diego Unified School District would be the leading school district in the nation to come up with a robust and beautiful anti-bully and anti-Islamophobic program,” he said. “I’m really happy we’re going toward the right direction. I am excited but also careful and cautious, because the work ahead is something we will all be responsible for.”

Warth writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

gary.warth@sduniontribune.com

Twitter: @GaryWarthUT

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