Jessica Winegar is a working mom. She’s an Associate Professor at Northwestern University and also has an eight-year old child. She pens in this Huffington Post article: “I am dreading the day that my young son comes home from school hurt from his first experience of anti-Muslim bigotry.”
Hoping this day never arrives, Ms. Winegar has come up with four suggestions to make schools safer for Muslims students, like her son, in 2016.
1. All schools need to recognize that anti-Muslim bias is a form of racism, and the tools that schools have developed to address other forms of racism (e.g., anti-black, anti-Latino, anti-Asian, anti-Jewish, and anti-Native American) could be adapted to address this newer ugly phenomenon.
2. School administrators should include lessons on what constitutes Islamophobia, and strategies to confront it as part of their civil rights and sensitivity training for teachers and faculty. Teachers should also receive training and support dedicated to fighting anti-Muslim bullying. School assemblies and other events to address racism or bullying could, where appropriate, include mention of anti-Muslim prejudice.
3. Teachers should also make sure that classroom material on Islam and Muslims is free of bias. When discussing sensitive topics like 9/11 or ISIS, they should not make Muslim students feel singled out or made to defend their religion.
4. And school districts should develop appropriate responses to support responsible teachers and faculty who oppose anti-Muslim hatred and/or teach about Islam in a sensitive and sensible fashion, rather than suspending faculty or closing schools, as recently happened in Illinois and Virginia.