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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

For First Time School May Be Held Legally Liable for Failing to Protect Sikh Child

The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights ("Division") found "probable cause" that a middle school failed to meet its obligations under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination when it did not take adequate measures to protect a Sikh student from bias-based harassment. The harassment and abuse was so severe that the Sikh student's parents decided to send him back to his native England to finish his schooling.

The Sikh Coalition worked with the student's father to file the initial complaint and cooperated in the Division's investigation.

First Incident

The Sikh student, Kabir Singh, was a seventh grader at Marlboro Middle School in Marlboro, New Jersey at the time he was subject to harassment. According to the Division's Finding of Probable Cause, on November 19, 2002 a student touched Kabir's patka because another student dared him to do so. The student who touched Kabir's patka was suspended for a day and the student who initiated the dare spent the day in Saturday detention. The students also apologized to Kabir afterwards.

Second Incident

On February 12, 20003, approximately 3 months after the first incident, an 8th grade student hit Kabir on the head and called him "Osama." Later that day the student again referred to Kabir as "Osama" in a hallway and a friend of the student forcibly bumped into Kabir resulting in an injury to his head.

After reporting the incident to school authorities Kabir was kept in school but the school failed to notify his parents of what had taken place. Kabir called his parents from school to come pick him up in a very distressed state.

Later that night, Kabir's parents found that he was having difficulty maintaining his balance so they brought him to a hospital. Doctors at the hospital found that Kabir had suffered a injury to the head and contusions. Kabir also complained of headaches for weeks after the incident. A doctor recommended bed rest so Kabir stayed home from school.

School officials initially blamed and want to discipline Kabir for the incident because he acknowledged accidently touching the attacker while turning around to face his attacker and protect his head from further attacks. They however dropped the disciplinary action as a result of a letter from the Sikh Coalition stating Kabir's account of what happened and his parent's protests.

Fearing for Kabir's safety and not satisfied with the school's efforts to protect him, Kabir's parents made the difficult decision to send Kabir back to his native England to finish his schooling. He continues his education in England. [Sikh Coalition Community Advisory]

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