Austin Independent School District provides training to staff that “handshaking” may not be appropriate for some families; tells teachers to slow down their lessons for foreign students


Parents Defending Education submitted a public records request to the Austin Independent School District seeking any training provided to staff regarding students who legally or illegally immigrated to the United States. PDE received a presentation from the district titled “Cultural Considerations for Supporting Afghan Newcomers.”

Much of the presentation explains the background of Afghanistan and the country’s culture. The presentation discusses the clothing Afghan people wear, the food they eat, and sports they play. However, one section of this presentation is labeled with the question: “What are some important considerations for interacting and communicating with Afghan families?”

This part of the presentation appears to explain that district staff should avoid handshaking, especially for female staff: “Handshaking may not be an appropriate greeting, especially between genders.” The presentation also states that it is “respectful” for staff to wait until a “Muslim woman” offers her hand before trying to shake it.

The presentation additionally explains that teachers should slow down their lessons for Afghan students: “Slow down explanations & take time to explain things.” Teachers should also “demonstrate behavior and classroom expectations multiple times / different ways.”