Respond to Incidents of Discrimination in Schools

How to Respond to Incidents of Discrimination in Schools--Advice to Parents

If students believe that other students, teachers, or school staff members are treating them in a discriminatory way, here are some steps which may remedy the situation.

While not all prejudicial attitudes are overt, you must be able to cite specific words or actions which demonstrate anti-Arab bias (negative references to Arabs or Muslims). Otherwise, there is no proof which will persuade the objective observer. It is wise to keep detailed notes of such words and actions as they occur. Witnesses are also important, or else it often comes down to the word of one person against another.

1. First Steps

Parents should first approach the teacher or principal. Describe the incident(s) and the effect on your child. If appropriate, listen to the person who is the alleged offender and get their version of any incidents. Ask for appropriate action to correct the situation.

If the results are unsatisfactory, go to the next higher authority — a principal or a school district office. Most school districts will have an office of Human Relations or Multiculturalism and Equality which handles such complaints. Give them the details of your situation (outline the problem, but don‘t overload them with details in your initial contact.) Also provide them with ADC information about the larger problem of discrimination which Arab Americans have encountered in schools around the country, especially since September 11.

You can also contact the local ADC chapter or other Arab-American organizations. Ask for their support. Some chapters have Education Committees.

You will be in a stronger position if you first research the multicultural and anti-discrimination policies and regulations of your school district and your state's Department of Education. There will be a procedure to file an official complaint. They will have websites with relevant information, as well as print material available to the general public.

Also, consider the school atmosphere and larger context within which any particular incident takes place. Is there a history of discriminatory behavior against Arab Americans or others? What kind of corrective action has the school taken? What pro-active steps has it taken to foster mutual understanding among those of different ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds?

2. ADC Support: Legal Assistance and Educational Resources

The ADC national office or local chapter may be able to provide support in the form of information or a letter or call of concern. Often the problem is at the level of human relations and is not a legal issue. It is often a “judgement call” as to whether or not an official complaint or a lawsuit is appropriate. Please consult first with the ADC Legal Department. ADC can also provide information on Arab Americans, on discrimination, or the Arab world for parents, teachers or school districts. Many of these