Asslam u Aliekum Brothers & Sisters,
The Atlanta-based Center for Disease Control declared school bullying as a “national health epidemic” due to its frequency of occurrence and the compounded health-related conditions that appear in both the bullied and the person doing the bullying. Every day, impressionable youth increasingly see acts of bullying, incivility, and bigotry being normalized and even trivialized. Among all public-school students in America today, Muslim children have the highest incidence of being victimized by bullies. Similarly, Muslim children are found to be the least likely population to report to teachers, parents, or others that they have been bullied. Child psychologists uniformly state that childhood trauma will likely have a profound negative effect on their mental and emotional makeup as adults.
The Islamic Circle of North America, through its Civic Engagement Division, ICNA Council for Social Justice, is launching a one-year Campaign, 2017-2018, “Protecting Our Children: Stop School Bullying Our Children.”
The purpose of the Campaign is to not only join the chorus of voices being raised across the nation against bullying, but to provide practical guidance on how to prevent and/or reduce the number of incidents. Physical and financial resources will be allocated to provide “Safe Spaces” for victims and potential victims of bullying where they and their family members can receive counseling and emotional support and guidance.
Secondly, the Campaign is designed to galvanize Parent Teacher Associations, teacher unions, School Superintendents, principals and vice principals, teachers, guidance counselors, County Commissioners, City Councilmen, education board members, other elected officials, children and parents to proactively address the scourge of school bullying.
The “Protecting Our Children: Stop School Bullying Campaign” will only be as effective as your fully-engaged participation. Please systematically implement the following Action Items related to the Campaign:
- If there is no ICNA CSJ Coordinator in your area, designate a Campaign Coordinator. The Campaign Coordinator will be your local/regional link to the national ICNA CSJ office.
- Identify and recruit Muslim counselors, psychologists, crisis intervention specialists, selective Imams and activists who can compose a team to offer sensitivity training to school staff and personnel. If none is available in your area, check with ICNA CSJ national to engage a team.
- Once Campaign posters and cards are received, distribute this information to area masajid, Islamic Centers, organizations, etc. They are also available on the ICNA CSJ website including the latest issue of the Message Magazine on school bullying. Try to identify someone in each facility to become a volunteer with the local team’s Campaign efforts.
- Identify Community Partners from the Interfaith and Activist communities that are willing to co-sponsor your local Campaign efforts.
- Set up meetings with School District Superintendents to solicit their support for the Campaign and identify areas where there can be collaboration. Acknowledge the “fine” job that the District is already doing while offering our support to enhance their efforts.
- Meet with school principals and vice-principals in all District schools where there are Muslim children enrolled. Seek approval of principals to have all students in their school to sign a generic No Bullying Pledge. (The Pledge will be provided by CSJ.)
- If feasible, attempt to secure a Campaign Billboard in your city. Also, CSJ national will have a Stop School Bullying public service announcement for your use soon, Inshallah.
- Local Campaigns are requested to get local mayors and city councils to declare January 22, 2018 as “Protecting Our Children: Stop School Bullying Day.” The language for the Resolution will be provided soon, Inshallah.
- Town Hall meetings on School Bullying are being planned for selective cities. If you are interested in exploring the possibility of sponsoring a Town Hall Meeting in your city, contact Rameez Abid, Stop Bullying Campaign Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Training by licensed professionals is being organized for Brothers and Sisters who are interested in being Safe Space team members. Safe Spaces will be designated spaces for youth to talk freely about situations in their lives that may be causing them emotional harm and difficulty, particularly being bullied. They will be able to speak without fear of reprisal or judgment. More information about Safe Spaces is forthcoming, Inshallah.
Imam Khalid Griggs
ICNA VP for Civic Engagement