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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sikh Coalition Meets with Chancellor Joel Klein

The Sikh Coalition met with Chancellor Joel Klein today to discuss ways to make schools safe for Sikh children. As head of New York City’s Department of Education, the largest school system in the United States, Klein expressed his concern about bias incidents in schools and pledged to work with the Sikh Coalition on an ongoing basis.

Today’s meeting marked the first time Sikhs have been given a place at the table on the issue of education in New York’s schools. The meeting was prompted by the Sikh Coalition’s recently released report - “Hatred in the Hallways” – that documents incidents of harassment against Sikh schoolchildren throughout the city. In revealing that over 75% of Sikh boys in Queens are regularly harassed at school on account of their religion, the report highlighted serious shortcomings in the Department's ability to protect Sikh children from bias-based harassment.

To counter some of these problems, the Sikh Coalition has asked the Department of Education to implement a number of changes. These include issuing a letter from the Chancellor to all school principals asking them to pay close attention to incidents of bias-based harassment against Sikhs, ensuring that all school personnel know about the unique issues that Sikh students face on account of their appearance, and issuing a regulation that clearly sets out the Department of Education’s anti-harassment policy. In addition, the Sikh Coalition asked that students and parents be informed of how to report incidents of bias-based harassment to the Department of Education. [Sikh Coalition Press Release]

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