Saturday, 11 July, 2009

Sikh activists in the making, inspire

Sikh activists in the making, inspire
Posted by Reema in Activism, Education, Organizations, Sikhi, USA on 07 10th, 2009

Early last week, a remarkable thing happened. Sikh children took to NYC streets again- some in strollers- and they were heard.
Last fall, the New York Department of Education passed a regulation in response to disturbing findings about the bullying that Sikh children face in schools. The regulation promised to define, track, and prevent bias-based harassment in NYC public schools. So after the first school year in which the regulation was in effect, how did the schools measure up?
The results were made public at a recent press conference by the Sikh Coalition and Sikh youth in NYC in front of the Department of Education’s headquarters. The Sikh Coalition teamed up with area organizations including the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF) and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), to release a report card grading the first year of the regulation’s implementation. Speakers at the press conference included representatives from Queens and Brooklyn schools and organizations such as the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), and Make the Road NY.
Problems remain, the report card shows. Based on the Sikh Coalition’s survey, there was no significant decline in the rate of harassment in the first year of the regulation’s implementation. [pg.9] Perhaps most disturbingly, out of all harassment reported by children, 16% was committed by a school official such as a teacher, school staff member, or security officer. [pg.12] In addition, after 90% of reported incidents of harassment to school officials, the school failed to properly follow protocol for investigation and follow-up. [pg.11]
For the full report card, click here.
But despite these continuing and disturbing problems, the turnout, spirit, and coverage of this press conference is a sure sign of progress. The kids spontaneously broke out into song at one point, singing “We are the Khalsa, mighty mighty Khalsa,” assuring young Jagmohan Gurnam Singh that the Khalsa stood behind him as he prepared to give his speech in front of television crews. The youth’s refusal to accept the status quo, their direct communication with government officials and the public, and collaboration with other community groups are progress in themselves. [edited 7/10/09]
The video below is short, and truly inspiring. Watch for the girls at the end, one of whom says (at 4:41), “I don’t care if they make fun of me, because I know who I am…” It seems that Mapleleaf Sikh’s observation after “When Lions Roar,” has become the theme of the summer.
These kids are gonna be alright.

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