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Supporting Muslim Students in Schools

Dec 31, 2016 by

Prejudice and stereotyping have no place in schools or in the classroom, and yet both are growing in American classrooms. The bullying of American Muslim students is twice that of any other religious group.

As a result, the one place that should be the most welcoming for students and their families immigrating to the United States is becoming the most hostile. Enacted by students and teachers alike, the hostility toward a single population can often be traced back to an unwillingness to learn about another culture with an open mind.

Children follow the lead of the adults in their lives, and if educators support Muslim students in schools and in the classroom, most students will do the same.

Prayer

If you’ve been in a public school during high stakes assessment administrations, you know that prayer in school is alive and well. Kids who aren’t particularly religious will carry a lucky token to help them get through the tests. The prayer is pro re nata, or as circumstances require.

Muslims, however, are required by their faith to pray five times a day every day; the Noon (Dhuhr) Prayer, one of these prayer times happens to occur during school hours.

Without interfering with school district policies, principals have made accommodations for Muslim students need to pray during school hours. Some schools and administrators have set up prayer time during their lunch period to allow for the Muslim students to pray. School administrators in Prince George County’s in Maryland allow students to take eight minutes out of their day to pray.

Finding the space for ritualistic prayer in a classroom of 35 students can be a strategic challenge, so many schools offer a dedicated space called a “meditation room” for the prayer that occurs in the middle of the day. This room is made open to all faiths, and it also meets the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

A meditation room offers a distraction free setting for those needing and wanting to pray. So that instructional time is not compromised, many schools have initiated creative scheduling that accommodates the few (3-5) minutes needed for daily prayer.

Head Coverings or Hijab

If there’s one thing most schools like, it’s structure and order. Schools have been designed around a code of uniformity, and you see this in everything from instructional design to behavior interventions. Nowhere is the requirement for conformity more straightforward than the student handbook, especially the dress code.

That dress code often forbids wearing hats inside the building, for students as well as teachers. Western culture has long held that hats worn indoors are disrespectful, and some caps have been used to flaunt gang affiliations.

Female Muslim students may wear a hijab, or headscarf, regardless of school policy prohibiting head coverings. By the same token, Jewish males may wear yarmulkes or skullcaps and Christians may display their faith by wearing crosses. The U.S. Constitution supersedes the school dress code as it protects the right to religious expression.

Accommodating student need, whether for prayer or wearing particular articles of clothing is one of many ways to support the Muslim student in the classroom. Cultural respect is the first step in making schools a safe place for all children.

Comment Below: What do you think school districts can do to improve things for Muslim or minority students?

Keywords: Muslim students, Islam, prayer in school, hijab, bullying, discrimination, religion

References

ACLU. (2016). Discrimination against Muslim Women. American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved from https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/womensrights/discriminationagainstmuslimwomen.pdf

CAIR-CA. (Nov. 2015). Report: More than Half of California Muslim Students Targeted by Faith-based Bullying. Council on American-Islamic Relations. Retrieved from https://www.cair.com/press-center/press-releases/13215-cair-ca-report-more-than-half-of-california-muslim-students-targeted-by-faith-based-bullying.html

Dotinga, Randy. (July 12, 2007). Public schools grapple with Muslim prayer. The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved from http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0712/p01s03-ussc.html

Haynes, C. (Nov. 2003). First Amendment in Schools. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/103054/chapters/Part-II.-Core-Issues-for-All-Schools-to-Consider.aspx

Strauss, Valerie. (January 28, 2013). Prince George’s Co. school lets Muslim students out of class to pray. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2013/01/28/prince-georges-co-school-lets-muslim-students-out-of-class-to-pray/?utm_term=.825754694c48

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2 Comments

  1. Esteban Goss

    Hi you have a fine website It was very easy to post I enjoyed your site

  2. Bakhtiyor

    I need Islamic schools with accommodations for women

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