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Nationwide, we are facing an epidemic. Between a quarter and a third of students report having been bullied at school, and one-quarter report being bullied on a regular basis. Bullying, which may take the form of physical assaults, verbal abuse, or cyberbullying, can lead to depression, anxiety, decreased ability to function at school or elsewhere, and even suicide.
For students who are religious or ethnic minorities, the picture is even worse. A survey in California—generally one of the most liberal areas in the country—has found that between 50% and 70% of Muslim students were bullied. A similar survey of Sikh students in California found that 47% of Sikh youth and 69% of Sikh boys wearing turbans (as required by the Sikh religion) were bullied. Statistics for bullying of Jewish children are not available, but anecdotal reports indicate that anti-Semitic harassment in schools is far from dead. The U.S. Department of Education will begin collecting data from school districts about reported allegations of bullying based on religion during the 2015-2016 school year to help better capture the experiences of various school populations, including Sikh, Muslim, and Jewish students.
As an educator and school administrator for more than thirty years, I have seen firsthand the impact of bullying on our nation’s education system. Educators play key roles in managing the front lines of bullying; whether through helping students cope, addressing the situation, or by fostering a healthy and inclusive school environment. That is a huge responsibility we, as a community, place on our educators. In order for them to be successful, we must equip them with the knowledge and tools to address bullying. Education, including the creation of an environment open to religious and cultural diversity, can prevent religious- and ethnic-based bullying.
Please find in this brochure resources for your use from three respected organizations: Sikh Coalition, Jewish Community Relations Council-Silicon Valley, and the Islamic Networks Group (ING). These organizations, as you will read, have successfully worked individually and collaboratively to reduce bullying in local area schools. It is important to realize that schools are not alone in this fight. We need the joint forces of parents, educators, students, and community members to effectively change the attitude in our nation. There is a long road ahead of us, but if we contribute and engage each other, we can make a world of difference in eradicating bullying.
Congressman Mike Honda
17th Congressional District