In another first for the Sikh community, the Sikh Coalition today launched Khalsa Kids a website dedicated exclusively to helping Sikh students fight school bullying. The website is designed as an interactive resource tool, featuring a discussion forum, videos, and downloadable presentations. Parents and teachers can also use the website’s sample lesson plans and games to teach others about Sikhs.
Khalsa Kids is part of the Sikh Coalition’s response to a hate crime committed earlier this year against a Sikh student in Queens, New York. Harpal Singh Vacher’s attackers, fellow high school students, forcibly removed his turban and cut his hair in a school bathroom. Harpal has since transferred schools in order to ensure his own safety.
Shortly after the attack, the Sikh Coalition issued its first ever civil rights report - Hatred in the Hallways - on the problems Sikh children face in school everyday. The report, based on a survey of New York City Sikhs, revealed that nearly 75% of Sikh boys in Queens are harassed or intimidated because of their religion. People call them “Osama bin Laden” or “terrorists,” often threatening or physically harassing them as well. Khalsa Kids is a way for kids to feel proud of their identity and to give them the tools to combat bias in school.
The Sikh Coalition has also been working with the Department of Education over the past few months to make New York City schools safer for Sikhs. On September 25, 2007, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein sent a letter to all school principals in New York City stressing the importance of diversity in our schools, and pointing to Harpal’s attack as a cautionary example. Chancellor Klein has also pledged to provide a Punjabi-language fact sheet for Sikh students and parents, telling them what they can do if they are being harassed in school. The fact sheet, along with state-specific know your rights packets, will be available for download on the Khalsa Kids website.
For more information, check out www.khalsakids.org. [Sikh Coalition Press Release]
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