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Lesson Plans

Muslim American students face high rates of bullying

May 18, 2016

Full Lesson

Essential question

What does it mean to be an American?

Some 50 percent of all Muslim students in the U.S. have been bullied by their peers, according to surveys by the civil rights group Center on American-Islamic Relations.

In St. Cloud, Minnesota, a mostly white city where thousands of east African refugees have relocated, the problem got so bad that Muslim students walked out of the city’s high school.

Student Hafsa Abdi recalls walking home from school one day and a younger boy pulling off her hijab.  She said the problem is particularly difficult in the bathroom where she said upperclassman have bullied Somali girls who were preparing to wash themselves before praying.

In the past year, diversity programs have gotten underway at St. Cloud high schools to help educate students that being different is okay, including holding a cultural carnival, with the idea that Americans comes from varying backgrounds and ethnicities.

Trainings extend to the faculty and staff as well, including how parent-teacher conferences are held and having more interpreters available, according to Willie Jett, Superintendent of St. Cloud Area School District 742.

“My job is to make sure that all children…have the best tools available to be successful here in America, here within our community,” Jett said.

Ubah Noor, a student at St. Cloud Technical High School, said she’s seen some gradual changes between Muslim and non-Muslim students in the last year.

“We’re trying to include people, and we’re not going to sit here and say, no, your opinion is wrong, you shouldn’t feel this way and that way about a culture. We’re trying to educate them, so that — in hopes that they would open up their minds,” Noor said.

Key terms

Islamophobia — dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force

refugee — a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution or natural disaster

mosque — a Muslim place of worship

Warm up questions (before watching the video)
  1. What are some challenges of being an immigrant in a new country?
  2. What kinds of support can help immigrants adjust to life in the U.S.?
  3. How have major events around the world impacted the lives of American Muslims?
Critical thinking questions (after watching the video)
  1. Do you think the St. Cloud school district is doing enough to improve things for Muslim students?
  2. What are some reasons non-Muslim students might react to their Muslim students with prejudice and bullying?
  3. How is St. Cloud in some ways representative of the entire nation right now?