The growing number of Muslim families in Kansas City Public Schools prompted the school board last month to approve a progressive resolution condemning violence and hate speech and express support for students who worship Islam.
But no one anticipated the hateful reaction the district has received since the resolution introduced by board Chair Melissa Robinson passed on Sept. 28. Naturally it comes via the internet and social media, where hate speech has a large and growing nest.
One post says: “Wake the ... up America!! Kansas City school forced to submit to Sharia & Islamic supremacy! #BanIslam. #BanSharia. There was more. But such hate speech doesn’t deserve attention, only condemnation.
Robinson told me Wednesday that no incident in the school district caused the board to pass the resolution. “It’s about building an inclusive environment for people so they know they have value,” she said. On the negative reaction to the board action, Robinson said, “It is very troubling to say the least.”
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Members of the Crescent Peace Society, who spoke at the board meeting, said some Muslim children in other area districts have had to contend with harassment and bullying because of their faith.
It is why other districts, private and charter schools also should follow Kansas City Public School’s lead. That’s important especially during this presidential election year, where Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has made scapegoating of Muslims, Mexicans, immigrants, refugees and minorities a centerpiece of his campaign. From it, he has attracted a large and loud following.
The Southern Poverty Law Center in a report titled “The Trump Effect” says Trump’s campaign has produced “an alarming level of fear and anxiety among children of color.” In addition, it has inflamed racial and ethnic tensions in classrooms.
Robinson spent about three months doing research for the Kansas City board resolution and reached out to members of the Crescent Peace Society for assistance.
“We were happy to help,” said Mahnaz Shabbir, Crescent Peace Society advisory board member. “We thought they were forward thinking in setting the tone.”
Shabbir on her Facebook page thanked Robinson and told me she hoped other school districts would follow the board’s action to go beyond anti-bullying policies and specifically address their Muslim population’s concerns. It’s about creating a safe environment for all students and for academic achievement to be the goal.
The resolution notes the 3 million Muslims living in the United States — 30,000 in the Kansas City area. Kansas City Public Schools has more than 650 immigrant families who speak languages from Muslim dominated parts of the planet.
The resolution says “the recent escalation of hateful rhetoric against Muslims, those perceived as Muslims, immigrants and people of color is especially harmful to children, as it has a negative impact on their psychological well-being, the health of their peer relationships and their ability to thrive in school....”
The resolution condemns hateful speech and violent action against Muslims, those perceived as Muslims, immigrants and people of color. It notes that the district is committed to fostering a school environment “that promotes respect for and curiosity about all religions and cultures, affirms the equal humanity of all members of the community and rejects all forms of bullying and discrimination.”
School policies, curriculum and training of staff and teachers will be put in place to reflect the inclusion the resolution promotes. Robinson said she also plans to visit schools with Muslim students.
For such actions, the Kansas City district merits national praise.