The U.S. Department of Education announced new protocol earlier this summer in dealing with religious discrimination or bullying in public schools by requiring public schools to report instances of religious discrimination.
The Department’s Office for Civil Rights created a new page on its website that outlines students’ rights and provides other resources on religious discrimination as well as an updated complaint form.
Public schools across the country are now required to report cases of harassment or discrimination based on religion to the Civil Rights Data Collection beginning the 2015-2016 school year. It clarifies that the Office of Civil Rights will investigate complaints if students are subjected to ethnic or ancestral slurs or are bullied based on outer appearance, including the way they dress or speak. Furthermore, the Department will provide resources to schools beginning in October to help combat the issue.
The new initiative comes in the face of rising anti-Muslim sentiment across the nation. According to the Huffington Post, over 260 acts of violence, discrimination, and hateful speech toward Muslims in the United States have been recorded so far this year.
Catherine E. Lhamon, the Department of Education’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, said that “students of all religions should feel safe, welcome and valued in our nation’s schools,” in a statement.
“We will continue to work with schools and communities to stop discrimination and harassment so that all students have an equal opportunity to participate in school no matter who they are, where they come from or which faith, if any, they subscribe to,” she continued.
The Office of Civil Rights enforces Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits federally funded programs to discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin. While the law does not explicitly address religious discrimination, the website clarifies that Title VI protects students of any religious background from discrimination based on their ancestral or ethnic characteristics or nationality.