More on the Experiences of Muslim Students in NYC Public Schools
By Meredith Kolodner
Muslim students are more likely to get attacked for their religion on the street, in stores and in restaurants than in the public schools, a new study shows.
Although more than one in three Muslim students said they had been hit with ethnic slurs in the past year, only one in six said it happened in school.
"Sometimes I'll hear something, like, 'Your people are terrorists,'" said Priscilla Mensah, a 16-year-old junior at Brooklyn Technical High School in Fort Greene. "Most people are more informed, and I try not to take it personally."
More than 600 students from 90 public schools participated in the three-year study conducted by Columbia University's Teachers College.
Most of the Muslim students said that although they still face bias, it has gotten better since the first few years following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Still, 36% of the students said they a faced at least one "discriminatory verbal incident" in the past year.
The study found 28% of Muslim students said they or a relative have been stopped by police as a result of "racial profiling," 12% reported they or a relative had been turned down for a job based on discrimination, 11% had property destroyed and 7% said they or a family member had been physically assaulted.
The study found that the vast majority - 85% - feel safe in the city's public schools.
"Just because you feel more picked on doesn't mean you feel threatened," said Omar Ahmad, who's in 11th grade at Stuyvesant High School. "You hear the suicide bomber jokes, but I try to educate as opposed to retorting disrespectfully."
The study's authors estimate that about 1 in 10 students, or 100,000, is a Muslim. The Education Department does not keep enrollment by religious affiliation.
"School provides an environment where being different - in this case Muslim - is part of being American," said the study's author, Prof. Louis Cristillo.
"Creating and ensuring a positive school climate and culture is a priority of the Department of Education," agency spokeswoman Margie Feinberg said.
Nonetheless, the impact of 9/11 is still significant, the study found.
Almost a third of the students said the aftermath made them feel uncomfortable about their identity as Muslims, and a similar number said they used a non-Muslim-sounding nickname in school.
Many students said that the more diverse the student body, the more comfortable they felt.
"Everywhere I go, there are conflicting ideologies," said Omar, 16. "If ever there was a place with people just like me, it would be very, very boring."