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Queens, New York, June 5, 2008

A 9th grade Sikh student at Richmond Hill High School was recently attacked by a fellow student who had been bullying him for some time. The victim had previously reported being bullied by this classmate several times to both his teacher and parents, and the latter even brought the situation to the attention of the school counselor. The bully allegedly would tease the Sikh student often, including tugging on the victim’s beard and asking why he does not shave and also frequently pulling on the victim’s patka, a square piece of cloth worn as an underturban, covering the long, unshorn hair (known as kesh) that the Sikhs consider sacred and wear as an article of faith.

The assault occurred yesterday as the bully sought to remove his Sikh classmate’s patka from behind, at which point the victim held onto the patka and attempted to keep it on. While the Sikh student was doing so, his assailant reportedly hit him in the face with keys. The victim sustained injuries from the attack including bruising and swelling that resulted in a trip to the hospital, but fortunately just missed the victim’s eye. “It is very disconcerting to learn that the administration at Richmond Hill High School failed to take the reports of bullying seriously,” remarked Baljit Kaur, UNITED SIKHS Sikh Awareness Project Coordinator.

“Sikh students being bullied is a well-documented phenomenon stemming from fear, ignorance, and misunderstandings concerning the unique Sikh appearance, particularly in the case of the dastaar, or the Sikh turban, which is worn as an article of faith. Providing information to students and answering questions about the Sikh faith and the reason behind a Sikh’s distinctive look would help allay fears, overcome the ignorance, and dispel misunderstandings that instigate bullies to harass Sikh students,” she added.

The school called the victim’s parents after the attack, but as they were unable to make it to the school quickly due to being hours away, the victim’s uncle arrived at the school and requested that the school call the police, whereupon the bully was arrested, along with facing suspension. “The school’s failure to properly deal with the reports of bullying is deplorable and wildly irresponsible,” commented Jaspreet Singh, Staff Attorney of UNITED SIKHS. “UNITED SIKHS will work to ensure that the school takes the incident seriously and administers a fitting punishment to the bully, as well as taking proactive measures to ensure that another incident does not occur in the future.”

The victim did not attend school today, recovering from the physiological and psychological damage incurred by the assault. UNITED SIKHS is issuing a letter to the school, urging school officials to take the event seriously and to take the necessary precautions to prevent repeated occurrences. Furthermore, UNITED SIKHS has offered the victim and his family support in seeking redress and has scheduled a meeting with school administrators and the victim’s family on Friday, June 6, 2008.

Source: UNITED SIKHS

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