The Middle East Center’s Bridging Cultures Project was featured at the June 6, 2016 “White House Roundtable on Discrimination, Bullying, and Harassment of Muslim, Arab, Sikh, and South Asian Students.” The roundtable discussion, chaired by Secretary of Education John King, was attended by key policymakers and stakeholders including Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President, Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs; Vanita Gupta, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice; and Cecilia Munoz, Director, Domestic Policy Council. The Bridging Cultures Project, established two years ago by the Middle East Center, addresses the challenges faced by teachers and administrators as they seek to help new students and their parents from Muslim-majority countries navigate the American public school system.
The initiative offers sessions on the diversity of Muslim-majority societies as expressed in culture, ethnicity, theology, history, and language – as well as in the variety of educational systems and approaches. At the same time, it engages the classroom expertise and experience of teachers and administrators to help them design strategies that support students entering the American public school system. Workshops facilitated by Middle East Center Affiliate Instructor David Fenner are offered at no cost to school districts throughout the Pacific Northwest. In academic year 2015-16, the Bridging Cultures Project presented twelve workshops to 380 teachers and administrators in nine school districts.