“Know Your Rights”: Bullying at School

By Sarah Goomar, Communications Intern

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“Know Your Rights”: When you or your child is being bullied at school

The scathing remarks of four middle-school boys that brought a 68-year-old woman to tears and the suicide of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi due to his roommate’s harassment regarding his sexual orientation continue to be on our nation’s radar every day.

Stories like these lead people to fear that their race, religion, race, age, or sexual orientation will be the basis of some form of bullying. These events have pushed the nation to address and work ardently for more comprehensive anti-bullying legislation at the federal and state levels.

Though there is virtually no federal workplace bullying legislation presently in existence, the situation in our nation’s public schools is not much better. Approximately 350,000 school children are bullied every week. Upwards of 150,000 students skip school every single day out of fear of being bullied, intimidated, or harassed. These numbers exist because of weak anti-bullying policies and a tendency to overlook such incidents and deem them a sort of rite of passage or a necessary part of the school experience.

The truth is bullying is often a very difficult phenomenon to handle – it is often ignored, delayed, or worse – met with retaliation.

American Muslims have not only been victims of blatant harassment and discrimination post 9/11, but have also seen the subtler but equally distressing side of bullying at school or at work. According to a 2009 CAIR report, civil rights violations in public schools had increased by 31 percent in just one year.

Bullying based on religion, race, or a “Muslim-sounding” name were not the only reasons for these incidents; stress relating to the current economic crisis has also been cited as a reason for bullying.

The “otherization” of Muslims in U.S. media portrayals can be monitored and addressed much more easily than Islamophobia on the playground. As such, it is not only important but one’s inalienable right to exercise ways in which one’s racial, ethnic or religious identity can be preserved in the face of bullying, discrimination, or harassment.

The following are definitions of different types of bullying, and may fall under the umbrellas of discrimination and/or harassment.

BULLYING AT SCHOOL

Bullying can be physical, verbal, or indirect. The state of Illinois defines “bullying” as:
• Acts that frighten others
• Acts that threaten others
• Acts that harm others

Federal civil rights laws require that schools are obligated to address conduct (bullying, harassment, hazing, teasing) that is:
• Severe, pervasive or persistent
• Creates a hostile environment at school. That is, it is sufficiently serious that it interferes with or limits a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or opportunities offered by a school
• Based on a student’s race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or religion

Forms of bullying can include, but are not limited to:
• Harassment
• Threats
• Intimidation
• Stalking
• Physical violence
• Sexual harassment
• Sexual violence
• Theft
• Public humiliation

YOUR RIGHTS AS A STUDENT*

• The right to a safe and supportive learning environment.
• The right to an immediate and appropriate investigation to ascertain what has occurred.
• A prompt, thorough, and impartial inquiry.
• Interviews with targeted students, offending students, and witnesses, as well as written documentation.
• School-facilitated communication with targeted students to ensure bullying has ceased.
• School-facilitated measures that would act to prevent retaliation measures against targeted student(s) or complainant(s).
• If a child does not feel safe at school, that violates their civil right to a free and public education.

Your rights as a parent of a child experiencing bullying include:
• Demanding your child’s school to review its anti-bullying policies
• Asking for identification of bullies and kids being bullied
• Demand for protection and support for kids being bullied
• The request of statistics of school-wide bullying, so as to determine the urgency of a potential trend of school bullying

* These rights and more information on bullying are listed on stopbullying.gov.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the above information, please feel free to contact us at (312) 212-1520, or complete the “Contact Us” form.

If you need to report an incident regarding an issue with school bullying, please complete this form.

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