California Gov. Jerry Brown signed new legislation last week aimed at giving students a safer school environment, according to his office.
Bill AB-2845, also known as the "Safe Place to Learn Act," seeks to address bullying of South Asian, Muslim-, and Sikh-American students as well as those mistaken to belong to those groups by providing school staff with school-site and community resources as well as require the superintendent of public instruction to publish anti-bullying resources related to religious and perceived religious affiliation on its website, according to Asian-Americans Advancing Justice — California (AAAJ-CA), one of the organizations behind the law.
The law was sponsored by Assemblymember Das Williams (D-37) and developed in collaboration with The Sikh Coalition, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), AAAJ-CA, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
"This is a landmark bill for California that will curb bullying and discrimination in the classroom," Harjit Kaur, community development manager for The Sikh Coalition, told NBC News. "AB 2845 ensures the right of every child to practice his/her faith freely in public schools. We look forward to implementing this bill and engaging with communities and schools across California to address bullying and discrimination in the classroom."
"[This bill] is very important to Muslim and Sikh children because both of our communities have seen a huge rise in the bullying of Muslim and perceived to be Muslim students," Saad Sweilem, civil rights attorney at CAIR-Sacramento Valley (CAIR-SV), told NBC News. "Students from both communities played an instrumental role in getting this bill passed by testifying in front of Assemblymembers about their own personal experiences being bullied. Our hope is that this bill provides our schools the resources they need so that they are prepared to handle these types of situations. Because of our current social and political climate, this issue is a major one and we're very hopeful that this bill will tackle it head on."
According to CAIR, 55 percent of Muslim-American students attending California public schools surveyed experience bullying based on their religious identity, twice the national average for bullying in school. According to The Sikh Coalition, 50 percent of Sikh students and 67 percent of turbaned Sikh-American students nationally have experienced school bullying.
The bill passed unanimously in the California Assembly 79 to 0 and passed 34 to 3 in the California Senate.