SACRAMENTO – Governor Jerry Brown has signed a historic bill, Assemblymember Das Williams’ Assembly Bill (AB) 2845, that will protect vulnerable Muslim and Sikh students who are facing bullying in school. At a time when other political leaders are fomenting hate, Governor Brown has sent an important signal that Californians will protect our children from that hate.
The bill will require the California Department of Education (CDE), as part of its compliance monitoring, to assess whether local educational agencies have provided information to staff on school site and community resources for students who are subject to discrimination and bullying based on actual or perceived religious affiliation. The bill also requires the Superintendent of Public Instruction to post anti-bullying resources related to affiliation or perceived affiliation with any religion, nationality, race, or ethnicity on its website. AB 2845 is co-sponsored by Asian Americans Advancing Justice - California (Advancing Justice-CA), Council on American-Islamic Relations, California Chapter (CAIR - CA), Sikh American Legal Defense & Education Fund (SALDEF), and the Sikh Coalition.
“AB 2845 will ensure that students who are faced with Islamophobia are provided the assistance and support they need when faced with school bullying and discrimination,” stated Andrew Medina, California Policy Manager of Advancing Justice - CA. “These resources are essential to ensure student academic success because it is often difficult for children to learn in a fearful environment.“
AB 2845 is the first and only bill directly addressing the issue of Islamophobia in California. The negative tone in our national politics has inflamed a disturbing trend of scapegoating and fear mongering of American Muslims. Recently, a rash of hate crimes aimed at Muslims and Sikhs have occurred across the nation, including physical assaults and the defacement of religious sites in California. The Cal State San Bernardino Center on Hate & Extremism has reported that Anti-Muslim hate crimes have increased 122% in California between 2014 and 2015. AB 2845 aims to address potential spikes in bullying and discrimination in our public education system as a result of increased Islamophobia.
“Having school site and community resources available to students experiencing bullying is a big step forward to ensuring a safer environment for our kids,” said Sameena Usman, Government Relations Coordinator for CAIR-San Francisco Bay Area. “We welcome the support from our Governor and Legislators in addressing this serious issue.”
In a recent study, CAIR-CA has discovered that 55% of American Muslim students attending California public schools experience some form of bullying based on their religious identity. This is twice as high as the national statistic for students who report being bullied at school. CAIR-CA also finds that American Muslim youth continue to identify student-teacher relations as needing improvement in addressing such bullying. Similarly, the Sikh Coalition has reported that 50% of Sikh students have encountered school bullying. This number increases significantly for turbaned Sikh students, 67% of whom have encountered bullying. In Fresno, 51% of the students surveyed by the Sikh Coalition reported that they felt school officials did not respond adequately to bullying incidents.
"Every child has the right to a safe and nurturing learning environment. This bill provides educators, students and parents with resources to help ensure that right," stated Harjit Kaur, Community Development Manager for The Sikh Coalition.
The statutes prescribed by AB 2845 are in effect starting January 1, 2017.