Steve Pfaff Shares Findings of Discrimination Against Muslim and Atheist Families in US Schools in Washington Post

Muslim woman holding an American flag and raising her hand to take the citizenship oath
Rafeef Hammad, originally from Iraq, takes the citizenship oath with 35 other new U.S. citizens in Fairfax, Va., in January 2017. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

Professor Steve Pfaff penned an op-ed in the Washington Post, which comes nearly two decades after the attacks on September 11 detailing the results of an audit study, led by Pfaff, on discrimination in schools across the US. The study shows that increased suspicion and hostility toward Muslims in the US persist from the initial hostilities that emerged in 2001. This study was designed to measure whether public school principals would respond differently to families based on their religious beliefs. Researchers sent emails to a sample of over 45,000 school principals divided across the country. These emails were sent by a fictional family interested in sending their child to the principal's school and asked for a meeting, and each fictional family was assigned a particular religious affiliation, or lack thereof.

In the op-ed, Pfaff indicates the emails included a quote in the email signature that indicated religious affiliation. "In some cases, the email indicated that the family wanted to find a school that was compatible with their beliefs; in others, the family noted that it expected accommodation for their beliefs."

Public schools play a vitally important role in ensuring that social minorities receive equal treatment and access to education. However, the the findings, recently published in the Public Administration Review, show that U.S. principals were less likely to meet with Muslim families, and interestingly also discriminated about the same rate against atheist families, revealing additional barriers to educational opportunities in U.S. public schools. 

Read the op-ed at The Washington Post.