Students who experience bullying because of religious intolerance may be affected academically, emotionally and sometimes even physically. Some students withdraw and become isolated, some seek solace by joining gangs and some simply lose their self-respect and self-confidence.
For many students, religion is an important part of life. However, many students come from homes that do not adhere to any faith and may have little or no knowledge of spiritual matters. All students’ backgrounds must be respected. Schools must be places where everyone is accepted for who they are without fear or intimidation.
Teachers play a critical role in fostering safe and caring learning environments regardless of students’ ethnicity, race, gender, socio-economic status, ability, sexual orientation or religion.
Teachers can help students respect religious diversity and appreciate each other’s individual identities, worldviews and customs by teaching strategies to avoid or resolve conflicts peacefully and by dealing with disrespectful behavior. Teachers have many opportunities to model respect and acceptance and teach proactive social skills and positive values.
Respecting diversity can be challenging in any context. Religious faith is deeply personal and embedded in family and state traditions; therefore, issues around religion can be highly sensitive and potentially controversial. That is why it is important to create safe, welcoming, caring and respectful schools that foster an understanding of others’ beliefs.