ING Press Conference: Impact of War in Our Schools

On Monday March 24th, representatives from various community organizations, government, & law enforcement agencies were invited to participate in ING’s Press Conference. The topic for the conference was: “The Impact of War on Students of Muslim & Middle Eastern Background”, and the program was from 10:00 – 12:00 pm at the ING office in San Jose, California.

Some of the representatives in attendance included:

  • Ameena Jandali – Islamic Networks Group (ING)
  • Rich Garcia, San Jose School Board
  • Linda Murray, San Jose School District
  • Superintendent
  • Paul Perotti, Santa Clara School District Superintendent
  • Supervisor Pete McHugh, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors
  • Jim McAntee, Santa Clara County Human Relations Commission
  • Mark Mershon, FBI Agent In Charge
  • Carol Russo, Dept. of Justice
  • Aaron Persky, Deputy District Attorney
  • Chief William Lansdowne, San Jose Police Department
  • Commander Dennis Bacon, Santa Clara County Sheriff Office
  • Linda Torres & Rich Saito, SJPD – Hate Crime Unit
  • Jim Stephens, Santa Clara County Sheriffs – Hate Crime Unit
  • Bart Charlow & Clarisse Moore, National
  • Conference for Community & Justice
  • Dahlia El-Toumi, CAIR
  • Imam Tahir Anwar, South Bay Islamic Association
  • Dick Roe, Council of Churches
  • Sister Elizabeth Avalos, San Jose Diocese
  • Janet Berg & Karen Stiller, Jewish Community Relations Council
  • Jamal Zeid, Arab-American Congress
  • Rick Callendar, NAACP
  • Kenzo Kimura, Japanese American Citizens League
  • Jackie Maruhashi, Asian Law Alliance
  • Gil Villagran, Latino community.


Fifteen different media outlets were also in attendance, including: NBC11, KPIX, KRON, KGO-TV, Telemundo, KQED Radio, KLIV Radio, KGO Radio, & the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Press Conference generated several important reports that were aired on both television and radio news programs throughout the day on Monday and in the morning on Tuesday. Some of the stations also added editorials & video footage to their web sites (to see video footage from ING’s Press Conference please visit:

We are hopeful that our message to parents, teachers, school officials, and law enforcement agencies of establishing a zero tolerance policy for hate crimes in schools reached a significant audience.


With tens of thousands of children of Middle Eastern and Muslim background in public & private schools throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, we are deeply concerned about their personal safety & security during the war in Iraq.

Typically there is a rise in discrimination, harassment, and hate crimes during times of conflict involving a particular ethnic or religious group. During the Gulf War in 1991, such incidents occurred in schools across the
country. Some of these included:

1) Racially & religiously motivated teasing that often went unchecked by school officials. Common slurs included “camel jockey” or “sand nigger.”

2) Harassment & degrading comments were often made in unmonitored areas, such as school buses, hallways, bathrooms, school parking lots, cafeterias, locker rooms and libraries. These actions were not monitored or addressed.

3) Muslim girls wearing the religiously mandated headscarf (hijab) were especially harassed, called “rag heads” and often had their scarves pulled off.

4) Classroom discussions about the war often focused on “us” and “them”, relegating students of Arab & Muslim background to a position of “the

5) Classroom discussions often lacked sensitivity towards innocent Iraqi civilians who died in the war.

We call on teachers & school administrators to:

1) Understand & be sensitive to what students of Middle Eastern & Muslim background experience during times of conflict involving the Middle East or Muslim regions: many feel overwhelmed by events and embattled in school, or that they need to either justify or explain events. Some may exhibit fear of coming to school or being academically punished for their views. They may
feel embarrassed, humiliated or degraded by statements or responses to current events and may generally feel that their own feelings do not matter.

2) Be sensitive in classroom discussions relating to the war or any other conflict concerning people of the region. Be supportive in words and deeds of a collective, inclusive, and positive feeling in the classroom & school, avoiding discussions that refer to “us” and “them.”

3) Implement a zero tolerance policy for discrimination or hate from any one in the school, whether student or staff, and provide supportive practices and instructions for implementation of this policy.

4) Acknowledge and deal with personal views on current events which may affect the school’s and its staff’s academic responsibility to be objective and neutral in education. For example, school staff cannot appear to support a particular political point of view. Teachers in particular should allow for questions and differences of opinion, which must be grounded in civil discourse and mutual respect.

Remember, that these issues not only impact students of Arab and Muslim background, but also Sikh children and other children of color who may be confused with being Arab or Muslim or who may be targeted because it presents an opportunity to those who harbor feelings of hatred to certain

Hate towards any group is unacceptable & should not be tolerated. Teachers and school administrators can be proactive creating a safe, comfortable and supportive environment for all students by preventing hate before it