Preventing Bullying & Harassment, Back to School and Park51 NYC Mosque; 8/30/10

Over 55 million young people will be going back to K-12 schools this fall. While school is generally a place of learning and friendship, one of three students will experience bullying. That is over 18 million students. Many of them will include Muslim, Sikh, Arab and other children from minority religious and ethnic communities. Students who are bullied have both their grades and health suffer.

Addressing the topic at a multi-federal agencies’ Anti Bullying conference in August, in which ING President, Maha Elgenaidi participated, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said, It is an absolute travesty of our educational system when students fear for their safety at school, worry about being bullied or suffer discrimination and taunts because of their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability or a host of other reasons.

Conference organizer, Assistant Deputy Secretary and head of the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools Kevin Jennings echoed these sentiments in his statement to the conference, Bullying behavior is not only troubling in and of itself but if left unaddressed, can quickly escalate into harassment, violence and tragedies.

In light of the controversy surrounding the Park51 NYC Mosque in Lower Manhattan and rising Islamophobic and bigoted protests against mosques across the country, we urge parents and students to work with their children’s school and school district to help prevent harassment and bullying by first learning about theirs and their children’s rights and responsibilities, and then secondly by reporting any form of harassment immediately to the proper authorities.

Student rights include balanced curriculum, freedom of religious practice, freedom of speech and freedom from harassment. Parental rights include being a partner in their child’s education and a safe school environment for their child. Request to see your child’s school or district’s policies and complaint procedures and follow their instructions when reporting harassment.

We also encourage you to access the following new website by the Dept of Education – Bullying Info – which is a “one stop shop” for all federal resources on bullying. The site will be updated from time to time with new and additional resources for educators, students, parents and community members who are working to end bullying.

Register today for our Annual Supporters Dinner on Saturday, October 9th, 2010