Earlier this year, the American Ethical Union became part of Know Your Neighbor (KYN), a coalition of over 80 religious and humanist groups united in compassionate resistance against increasing polarization in America along political, religious, and cultural divisions. These problems exist not only in adult society, but among our children as well. Many children experience bullying and harassment because of their perceived race or religion. For example, the impact on Muslim students is striking, even before the recent public escalations of hate and violence. KYN reports a survey finding that over 40% of American Muslim parents reported that their child had suffered bullying or harassment from peers or school personnel on the basis of their faith. In addition, a 2015 study based on reports from students themselves found an even higher rate of religious-based bullying, with 55% of Muslim students saying they had been bullied at least once over the previous year.
To counter intolerance and bigotry in our schools, KYN members created a Back-To-School campaign for members to share resources for teachers, students and parents to help create more inclusive classrooms and schools. Some organizations shared their resources on social media, including curricula, lesson plans, materials, data points, and success stories. Educators shared videos on how they promote inclusive environments in their classrooms.
The ACLU shared information on the rights of immigrant, disabled, and LGBT students (https://www.aclu.org/blog/juvenile-justice/student-rights-school-six-things-you-need-know). They also highlighted students’ religious rights in public schools, an issue that is frequently misunderstood by many Americans and misrepresented in the media (https://www.aclu.org/issues/religious-liberty/religion-and-public-schools). While public schools are forbidden from attempts at religious indoctrination of their students, for example through school-sponsored prayer, students have the right to freely express and exercise their religious beliefs.
Individuals also shared videos, posts, tweets and images about how their lives have been affected by efforts toward inclusivity. Students shared what these efforts have meant to them:
Or how they have been affected by non-inclusive environments:
Parents shared their advice on how classrooms could be more inclusive for their children:
One resource for teachers included a list of novels set in different American religious communities, as a way for young people to connect with cultures different from their own (http://religiousworldsnyc.org/resource-page/novels-set-american-religious-communities).
To find even more resources from the campaign, go online and search for #KnowYourNeighbor. If you have resources to share, you can also post on your favorite social media site and use the same hashtag so others can find your post. You can also take part by sharing this campaign with educators in your community, so that they can make the most of these diverse resources. Together, we can build understanding across cultures and help to finally knit together the frayed fabric of our American communities. The kind of society we strive to create cannot exist without this bedrock, and we must all reach across cultural divisions if we are to achieve it.