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California Muslims, Sikhs Praise Anti-Bullying Bill

California Muslims, Sikhs Praise Anti-Bullying Bill

LOS ANGELES – Leaders of California Muslim and Sikh communities welcomed the new anti-bullying bill signed last Monday, seeing it as a first step towards ending harassment of students based on religious affiliation, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

“It’s important to create a safe environment where everyone feels accepted,” Hussam Ayloush, executive director of Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA), told The Orange County Register on Wednesday, September 28.

“Bills like this one help such an environment and provide the necessary tools and resources to recognize this specific form of bullying.”

Ayloush was commenting on the new bill signed into law Monday by Gov. Jerry Brown that was specifically designed to protect these students from bullying on California’s school campuses.

The law will go into effect January 1, 2017.

The bill, number AB2845, requires the California Department of Education to assess whether local educational agencies have provided anti-bullying information to staff on campuses and resources for students who are being bullied based on religious affiliation, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

The bill also requires the Superintendent of Public Instruction to post on its website anti-bullying resources related to affiliation with any religion, nationality, race or ethnicity.

It was co-sponsored by Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the Sikh Coalition.

“Our kids are bullied so much just for being who they are that they fall behind in their school work,” Amarjit Dhillon, the president of Gurdwara Buena Park, a Sikh temple, said.

“It affects them psychologically.”

Dhillon recalled how he was himself called “bin Laden” while walking in downtown Los Angeles.

Welcoming the bill, he said though it might not resolve the overall issue but it is a good start.

“We’ll have to wait and see how much it helps,” he said.

“What could really help is teachers and principals putting some effort into teaching kids about different religions and respecting everyone.”

Alarming

Recent surveys have revealed alarming record of anti-Muslim bullying.

Ayloush said that in surveys CAIR conducted with local students, many reported being called a “terrorist.”

A number of female students reported that other students pulled or attempted to pull their head scarves.

“A big part of the challenge is to help students see that these types of harassing actions amount to bullying and should be reported,” he said.

Bullying is no longer “just about getting beaten up for lunch money,” Ayloush said.

“There are other forms of bullying, and if we don’t address them, it could lead to bigger problems such as anxiety, depression or even suicide,” Ayloush said.

In extreme cases, such isolation could drive someone to seek refuge in radical ideology, Ayloush said.

“It’s important to create a safe environment where everyone feels accepted,” he said.

“Bills like this one help such an environment and provide the necessary tools and resources to recognize this specific form of bullying.”

Ron Avi Astor, professor in the School of Education and School of Social Work at USC warned that bullying students because of their faith could have psychological damages.

“It’s bad enough being called names because of who you are as a person,” he said.

“But with this type of categorical bullying, it’s not just you but your family, friends and community members who are targeted. It damages not just the person but how he or she feels connected with society, their peers and their school.”

He also praised the bill, stressing that allowing such bullying on school campuses could send the wrong message to the students who are victimized that they are not wanted in this country.

“It’s like telling them you are not valued,” he said.

“That you’re not part of the American story.”


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