By Jackson Richman
Schools across the United States have consisted of an alarming number of incidents related to religiously-motivated bullying and similar abuse.
According to a Department of Education study last month, there were 10,848 incidents related to religion during the 2015-2016 academic year.
It was the first time the department included this kind of statistic in its annual Civil Rights Data Collection survey, thanks to a push from the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. Religion-based bullying constituted 8 percent of allegations of harassment or bullying by basis, preceded by disability, sexual orientation, race, and sex.
“This problem has been almost entirely ignored until very recently,” Aviva Vogelstein, LDB’s director of legal initiatives, testified in front of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on Friday. “Until last month, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) did not even collect data on religiously- motivated harassment and bullying, although it amassed data on sex, race, color, national origin, and disability.”
Vogelstein added, “It is unconscionable that this category of hate, averaging approximately 30 incidents per school day, 150 incidents per school week, and 602 incidents per school month, has, up until now, been largely unaccounted for and unaddressed.”
She added that the 1964 Civil Rights Act of 1964 only protects students based on “race, color, or national origin,” and does not cover those based on religious discrimination.
Reported examples of religiously-based bullying include two Jewish Towson University students, who were members of a Jewish campus fraternity, walking to a house last month when they were followed by two fellow students shouting, “F**k the Jews” and calling them an ethnic slur. The suspects then followed the victims to the front of the house and began punching one of the victims in the face.
Another includes a Muslim student assaulted at a New York City public school in May 2017. The assailant spat on her, called her a “Muslim b*tch,” and attempted to pull off her hijab.
Months later, in Washington State, a 14-year-old Sikh boy wearing a turban was punched and knocked down by a classmate nearby his high school.
“With over ten-thousand incidents of religious hate in our schools, the federal government must act,” Vogelstein said. “Our government cannot continue turning a blind-eye to incidents such as choking a Muslim girl with her hijab, punching a Sikh boy wearing a turban, and burning a Jewish boy with hot wax.”
“If any question remained, the Department of Education’s staggering findings of 10,000 incidents in one year provides us with 10,000 indisputable reasons to act,” Vogelstein added. “Religious harassment and bullying in our schools is a major problem that the federal government is inexplicably failing to address. We need better data, and we need serious and immediate action.”