(New York, NY) June 3, 2009 - One year to the day after he suffered a violent biased-based attack, Jagmohan Singh Premi today filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the city's Department of Education (DOE) failed in its duty to protect him from such attacks in school. The suit alleges that Mr. Premi was subject to nearly daily abuse from a fellow student and that the school system did not respond effectively to protect Mr. Premi. The law firm Howrey LLP filed the suit on behalf of Mr. Premi.
On June 3, 2008 Mr. Premi, formerly a student at Richmond Hill High School in Queens, was punched in the face after a student intentionally attempted to remove his patka (small turban). The perpetrator had a long, documented history of harassing Jagmohan in school, making fun of his patka and beard, and attempting to pull off his patka.
"The abuse I suffered in school was terrible," said Jagmohan Singh Premi. "I hope this never happens to anyone again."
Jagmohan reported this harassment to teachers, but teachers and administrators at Richmond Hill High School were unable to end the harassment. Though the tormentor had been suspended earlier, he continued to harass Mr. Premi.. That harassment culminated in horrible violence one year ago today.
"The Department was aware both that Mr. Premi was the subject of continued abuse, and that Sikh children in city schools are generally the subject of abuse," said Gurbir S. Grewal of Howrey LLP., counsel to Mr. Premi. "The Department therefore was under an obligation to end it. They failed and should now be held accountable."
The Sikh Coalition documented harassment of Sikh children specifically at Richmond Hill High School since June of 2007 when it released the report "Hatred in the Hallways" on bias against Sikh school children in New York City. On July 16, 2007, the Coalition directly raised the issue of anti-Sikh harassment at Richmond Hill High School at a meeting with Schools Chancellor Joel Klein in materials submitted to the Chancellor and his staff at that meeting.
In April 2008, the Sikh Coalition discussed Richmond Hill High School in its report "Making Our Voices Heard: A Civil Rights Agenda for New York City Sikhs." That report specifically lists Richmond Hill High School under the heading "Problem Schools." The Coalition found that over half of all Sikh students at Richmond Hill High who responded to our survey reported being harassed at school.
"This is the first time that a Sikh is affirmatively filing a lawsuit for harassment he suffered in city schools," said Amardeep Singh Executive Director of the Sikh Coalition. "It is a measure of progress for our community that we are using all the tools at our disposal to stand up for our rights. I hope that through this suit, we can attain some measure for justice for Jagmohan and the hundreds of Sikh children we surveyed who suffer bias-based harassment in city schools"
As always, the Sikh Coalition urges all Sikhs to practice their faith fearlessly. If someone tell you to remove your articles of faith, please report the incident.