A school in the Hertfordshire area will make a female student, who assaulted a Muslim pupil because of their hijab, write a letter of an apology, as police logged the incident after Tell MAMA gained the consent of the parents.

We can reveal that on December 4, the Muslim student, aged 11, had decided to wear the hijab for the first time, when a female student in their year group approached her and said, “that hijab is horrible, I want to see your hair” before assaulting her and attempting to rip her hijab off.

Her parents confirmed that the same student had previously made anti-Muslim and Islamophobic statements towards their daughter.

The nature of the assault meant that the young girl felt unable to inform staff but disclosed the incident to their parents, who, in turn, wrote to the school to raise their concerns. She had even talked about no longer wearing the hijab again following the assault.

Tell MAMA has declined to reveal the exact location of the school to protect those affected, but we have seen a copy of the letter sent to the family this week. It confirms that an investigation took place which demanded that the girl responsible  would apologise in writing.

The family chose not to pursue the matter further with the police following Tell MAMA’s report on their behalf.

Tell MAMA has continued to warn against the issue of anti-Muslim and Islamophobic bullying in schools.

In our most recent annual report, verified data on the perpetrators and victims revealed that fifteen perpetrators were under the age of 12, compared to 87 victims. Broadening the age categories to include those aged between 13 and 18, we found a higher number of perpetrators in the same age bracket as victims, with 76 perpetrators and 87 victims respectively.

Tailored safety tips for children and young people (in a variety of colours) are free to download from the resources section on the Tell MAMA website.

Tell MAMA calls on schools to empower their staff and teachers to set positive examples by reminding students of a zero-tolerance approach to bullying, bigotry, and racism. And extends to schools doing more to incorporate Muslim role models and members of staff and help foster a positive teaching environment which encourages Muslim students to speak with staff without fear.

Such an environment can encourage Muslim students to discuss sensitive topics and find their voices centred. In a positive example of this, Tell MAMA verified a case where a schoolteacher facilitated an open discussion about the impacts of Islamophobia, by allowing the affected Muslim student to lead the discussion. As our 2017 report noted, “she could highlight the role of negative media representations of Muslims and Islam, which she believed had partly motivated the incident”. Improving the religious literacy of students in formal and informal lesson structures can help reduce discriminatory attitudes amongst peers.

The targeting of Muslims in schools extends beyond students and includes teachers and support staff. Tell MAMA has documented examples where teachers have made anti-Muslim and Islamophobic remarks, or misused safeguarding policies.

In total, Tell MAMA verified 50 reports of incidents occurring in educational institutions last year.

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