City Council Members Join Coalition to Release Report and Letter to NYC Schools Chancellor
(New York, New York) June 6, 2007 - Four New York City Council Members joined the Sikh Coalition today to release a first ever research report on bias against Sikh children in New York City Schools. The report, "Hatred in the Hallways: A Preliminary Report on Bias Against Sikh Students in New York City's Public Schools," presents data from over 200 surveys conducted by the Sikh Coalition on the experience of Sikh children in New York City schools.
Some of the report's key findings are:
- Three out of four Sikh boys who go to school in Queens have been teased or harassed on account of their religious identity.
- More than half the over 200 Sikh students surveyed had experienced some form of harassment in school based on their religion or national origin.
- Over 40% of Sikh students who wear turbans or patkas have been subjected to some form of physical harassment, either hitting, punching, or disrespectful touching of the head.
- Though Sikh students often complain to school personnel, nearly a third of their complaints go unheeded, and nothing is ever done.
The report's findings are a sobering reminder that Sikh children in the United States suffer from significant issues of bias and discrimination in schools. It is the Coalition's intention to continue to address these issues both through education and ensuring that school anti-bias policies are enforced.
Reacting to the report's findings, Council Member John Liu said:"If we expect students to excel, they have to be given an environment free of fear and intimidaition. The Department of Education cannot simply say that is going to be the case through this laissez faire attitude. They have to understand that harassment does exist in the schools and when administrators turn a blind eye to that harrassment, they in turn tacitly approve of even more harassment."
Council Member Liu also used the occasion to release a letter from 9 City Council Members calling on the city Schools Chancellor to take action to protect Sikh students from harassment. Liu authored the letter at the request of the Sikh Coalition. In addition to Council Member Liu, Council Members David Weprin, Robert Jackson (Chair of the Education Committee) and Hiram Montserrate spoke at the press conference. The Coalition thanks Council Member John Liu for initiating the letter to the Department of Education and all the Council Members for their support.
A host of religious and civil rights organizations joined the Coalition at the press conference to express solidarity between all communities in ensuring all children are safe at schools. South Asian Youth Action, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, American Jewish Committee, Council on American Islamic Relations - New York, Muslim Bar Association of New York, New Immigrant Community Empowerment, South Asian Bar Association of New York, and Women in Islam all joined the Coalition at the press conference. These and other organizations also joined the Coalition in signing a joint statement on the issue.
The Coalition issued the Hatred in the Hallways report in response to the hair cutting incident involving a Sikh student in Elmhurst, Queens, New York on May 25, 2007. Prosecutors have charged the alleged perpetrator with a hate crime. The release of this report is meant to push for systemic change in the treatment of Sikh children in New York City schools.
The issues facing Sikh children in New York City schools are serious. It is the Coalition's intention to push for an end to bias against Sikh children in all schools through education, advocacy, and litigation.
The Coalition calls on all Sikhs to stand up for their rights and fearlessly maintain their articles of faith. If you or any child you know is a victim of discrimination in schools, please report it at: