Muslim students in California say they're not only being bullied by students but also by school staff, according to a statewide report released Friday.
The California Council on American-Islamic Relations surveyed Muslim students across the state for the second year.
Participation in some counties was very low but San Diego County had the highest participation with 165 Muslim students aged 11 to 18 years old participating.
Students were asked to share their experience of being Muslim in school.
Fifty-five percent said they're bullied, taunted, and harassed by other students and teachers.
One student recalled being told, “You're not American enough to understand."
Almost a third of students who wear a headscarf to school reported offensive touching or pulling of their headscarf.
When they reported bullying to a school official, 46 percent said they were unhappy or unsure of the school's response.
Hanif Mohebi, Executive Director of CAIR San Diego said the results are heartbreaking.
“When I was in school, yes, I was bullied. I felt uncomfortable but I could always turn back to my teachers,” he said. “Today, unfortunately we’re getting more reports of students also being misunderstood or in some cases even bullied by the administration and staff.”
Taha Hassane is a leader at the region’s largest mosque, the Islamic Center of San Diego.
He said the mosque often receives reports from families in the community who are uncomfortable bringing the information forward to school officials.
A father of four daughters attending public school, Hassane also called for candidates seeking public office to tone down the anti-Islamic rhetoric.
“Sometimes they don’t know that whatever they say will affect our kids at the public school,” Hassane said.
Danell Scarborough, Executive Director of the San Diego Human Relations Commission, joined CAIR in their call to action.
“When bullying affects students, their ability to learn, to excel, to participate in school fully is hampered,” Scarborough said.
She suggested schools and parents work together to give students a voice to raise concerns.
The report suggests schools look for community leaders to help with lesson plans involving Islam rather than looking to Muslim students to speak on behalf of the faith.
It also suggests an examination of textbooks to remove any anti-Islamic language.
The group also suggests parents look for signs of bullying that can range from changes in behavior to physical marks like scrapes or bruises. If bullying is suspected, parents should use school procedures to make complaints and follow up.