As each classroom, school, school district, and local context are unique, there is no prescribed way to address religious bullying. While this site offers ideas and information that can help you, and guides below, it is important to consider the best approach for your given context, your student, and your professional and personal well-being. As a primary goal of my research was to find answers that can support fellow teachers, I do hope that the data below is a helpful start. If you have any questions, please let me know.
Additionally, I am sharing context-specific lectures and presentations with educators at McGill University, the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, and the Religious Freedom Center in Washington, D.C. If you would like to schedule a chat or presentation for yourself or other educators in your area/school board/school district about religious bullying, please feel free to reach out to me.
How to prevent religious bullying?
This requires personal development, awareness of the institutional supports that exist, and your professional due diligence.
- Raise your own level of religious literacy so that you can foster an understanding and inclusive environment for your students, and be comfortable including content about religion in your lessons and classroom discussions. Many teachers in Canada and the US do not know that it is lawfully acceptable to discuss religion in public school classrooms, which is done when one teaches about religion.
- Familiarize yourself with the state/provincial/county-based laws that protect the freedom of religious expression in public spaces. Then also, understand the laws in your country to protect the freedom of conscience and religion so that you can foster and model a respectful attitude towards all students regardless of their religious or non-religious affiliation. Here are a few links for your quick reference:
- Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
- United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights
- Familiarize yourself with the state/provincial/district-based guidelines on their anti-bullying stance and how to prevent bullying of any form and your contribution to this as a teacher.
- Understand the definition of religious bullying. Thus, through a higher level of religious literacy and the ability to identify religious bullying, you can recognize and quell any discriminatory attitudes and thoughts that can lead to religious bullying.
- Understand the difference between bullying and teasing here.
- Foster relationships with local organizations and campaigns that can support you in preventing religious bullying. Some are listed below.
- Foster a healthy relationship with all your students so that they are comfortable reporting an incident to you should bullying occur.
How to respond to religious bullying?
- Respond based on the anti-bullying guidelines of your state/provincial/district-based guidelines, and the requirements of your local laws.
- Inform and support students and parents to understand what has happened.
- Seek support from a local interfaith group, or religious and non-religious leaders, who can support the students and parents outside of school. Many reports have shown that some principals and vice principals have been reluctant to respond to bullying. Such local leaders and interfaith groups can be sources of this support instead.
Context and community specific guides and resources to address religious bullying:
- The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)’s Stop Bullying Campaign with guidance for educators, parents, and students
- The Islamic National Group (ING)’s Bullying Prevention Guide for public and private schools (including Muslim full time and weekend schools)
- Sikh Kid2Kid is a youth-based organization that allows students to support one another after religious bullying and discrimination, and raise awareness about Sikhism.
- The Welsh Government’s Ministry of Education’s guide to Respecting others: Bullying around race, religion, and culture
- UK’s Inservice Training and Educational Development (INSTED)’s department for education and skills advice booklet on Bullying around racism, religion, and culture
- The Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding‘s Religious Diversity in the classroom webinar series
Valuable tips for educators on bullying overall (including supporting LGBTQ students, and understanding the difference between teasing and bullying) are available from PREVNet here.