Startling new data indicates more than half of California's Muslim students between the ages of 11 and 18 are being bullied at school.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, CAIR, held a press conference Friday to release a report called "Mislabeled," which reveals 55 percent of Muslim students in California say they've been physically or verbally bullied because of their religion. That's nearly twice the national average of all students nationwide who report being bullied.
Researchers explained that more male Muslim students than female Muslim students report experiencing Islamophobia, yet more girls report being discriminated by a teacher or administrator at school.
"We had teachers who would see bullying and ignore it, or join in on it," said Brice Hamack, civil rights lawyer for CAIR. " We had teachers who would tell their students they're not American enough to be commenting on Islamic issues. We found teachers showing very biased and derogatory hate films coming from groups all over the country. We found these really troubling."
Tenth grader Rasmia Shuman from Summit Prep Charter School in Redwood City shared at the press conference her experience being bullied by a group of students back in January.
"They started talking about ISIS and I kind of knew that it would go bad because like I'm the only muslim in the group," Shuman said. "Then they said something about me being ISIS and then they pointed at me."
Shuman said she forgave the students because Islam teaches her to forgive and leave peacefully. Yet she says she was discriminated against months later before school at a coffee shop inside a grocery store.
"I was going to get my caramel macchiato and just get what I wanted. The barista, she was making my drink and then she started yelling 'Oh Lord, oh Lord here's ISIS. I don't want to serve another ISIS fan.' And a lot of other stuff about me being ISIS. And it kind of hurt me," said Shuman, fighting back tears.
"It affected me throughout my school day and for the rest of the week," she said.
Shuman said her parents reported the incident to the shop manager, yet she believes the barista is still employed.
CAIR researchers surveyed over 600 Muslim students ages 11 to 18 across the state. Nearly 20 percent of the students are from Santa Clara County.
The organization is calling on schools and parents to be vigilant in looking for signs of bullying, and to empower students to speak up when they experience or witness bullying.