indica News Bureau-
For a Sikh student in an American school, it’s not uncommon to go through some kind of racial abuse or bullying, especially for those who wear a turban. School bullying can impact the mental health of a child and could have lasting effects throughout that person’s life.
Sikh boys who wear turbans get labeled as “terrorists” while Sikh girls are teased for having long hair. Bullying occurs not only on school grounds but also increasingly on social media.
Recently, a Sikh student in New Jersey filed a lawsuit against an education board, alleging that he was subjected to bullying because of his faith and was forced to permanently pull out of school due to the prolonged harassment.
Community-based organization the Sikh Coalition said it had joined with co-counsel at the Law Offices of Brian M. Cige to file a complaint against the Gloucester County Special Services School District Board of Education in Sewell, New Jersey.
The complaint addresses the case of the Sikh student, who remains anonymous since he is a minor, enrolled at the Gloucester County Institute of Technology.
It alleges that the student suffered “under a pattern of bias-based bullying since 2018.”
No student should experience what my child has gone through — not the bullying by fellow students, and certainly not the indifference, dismissiveness, or criticism of the adults who are meant to protect them — said the student’s mother, who also remains anonymous to protect her child’s identity.
“I am hopeful that a civil court will recognize this clear case of bullying and take decisive action, both for the sake of my child and to create a safer learning environment for all students in this district” she said.
The Sikh Coalition came to find out that, despite being subjected to slurs, the student’s pleas for help from the school district have been repeatedly brushed aside by educators and administrators.
The suit seeks acknowledgment of the school district’s wrongdoing, providing training and having processes in place for better detection of bias-motivated harassment, and damages.
Giselle Klapper, a senior staff attorney at Sikh Coalition said the organization is dedicated to taking a holistic approach to preventing and ending bullying and ensuring a safe path for the child to return to a healthy learning environment.
Even after more than a year out of school, the effects of the bullying on this student persist. The student remains in treatment for negative mental health consequences of their experience.
The bullying of Sikh youth based on their perceived and actual identity remains a systemic problem in the United States, as per the results of the Sikh Coalition 2014 survey and report entitled Go Home, Terrorist; in the past year alone.
Through this case, let us hope that the American Sikh community be able to get their voice across to federal policymakers and bring a permanent change.