Department of Education Addresses Religion Discrimination in Schools and Universities

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Religious belief should never be a justification for not allowing a person to achieve learning and success in school.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights engaged in a community forum in Palo Alto, California which covered the topic of religious discrimination in schools and universities.

This roundtable discussion was initiated by an event in Newark, New Jersey, where the Department of Education joined the Justice Department in announcing the initiative entitled Combating Religious Discrimination Today, a new interagency community engagement which is designed to end religious discrimination and at the same time enforce laws against religion-based hate crimes.

The increase in the incident of school bullying and harassment of students based on diversity of religious and ethnic backgrounds recorded In Palo Alto enraged community leaders to express their support for a wide range of trainings, which include socio-emotional learning, cultural competency, implicit bias, restorative justice, basics of world religions.

The last month’s roundtable was seen as an important continuation for the dialogues.

The discussion revolved on the issues raised from Secretary John King and former Secretary Arne Duncan’s joint letter that promotes efforts to create safer and more supportive school environments to ensure that all students are equally able to participate in a robust exchange of ideas.

The OCR has been committed to continue its work towards creating partnerships with its federal colleagues to address unlawful bias and discrimination in US’s schools, and to continue the strong enforcement of federal civil rights laws to ensure that all students can learn in safe school environments.

Last year, OCR had received 10,000 complaints, with 21 percent of which involved discrimination based on race or national origin and around 450 cases which involved racial or national origin harassment, some of which includes national origin discrimination involving religion.

The OCR evaluated to check for possible civil rights violations in each of the complaint that they had received.

One of the complaints involved a Jewish student in California.

The student was said to be bullied repeated several times over several years due to his shared ancestry and ethnic background as a Jewish, the said student was also subjected to disability-based harassment.

Aside from the verbal taunts, the complaint was also allegedly physically assaulted by his assailants.

The school was also notified of several other incidents of harassment, and despite the school’s response, the harassments continued.

In a resolution agreement, the district agreed for a school climate assessment and plan to resolve the issue in order to address race- and disability-based harassment and include investigation and redress anti-Semitic sentiments.

It is geared to provide expert training to school personnel on how to investigate and respond to allegations of discriminatory harassment.

he same is also to provide training to students in order to raise awareness on what acts constitute race, disability and as well as anti-Semitic harassments and remedies to the said acts.

One of OCR’s tools is enforcement in order to protect students.

It also issued policy guidance which explains Title VI and how it addresses discrimination on religious individuals based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics.

Civil Rights Data Collection of 2015-2016 monitors the prevalence of religion-based bullying in all school districts, mandating then to report incidents of bullying or harassment due to actual or perceived religion.

Rob Clark
 

SchoolCampus.org admin staff managing editor

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