A32 US NEWS India Abroad April 25, 2014
SUMAN GUHA MOZUMDER
Congress and the Sikh Coalition released a groundbreaking national
report, last month, on the
endemic and ‘severe bullying’ of
Sikh school children in America,
one of the highest among any
The report was released at a
briefing organized by the
Caucus, the American Sikh
Congressional Caucus, and the
United States Representative
Mike Honda, chair of the
Caucus, joined representatives
of the Sikh Coalition,
Congressional staffers, and
members of the Sikh community
to mark the occasion.
The report, Go Home Terrorist
– a report on Bullying Against
Sikh American school children,
found that the majority of Sikh
children — just over 50 percent
—endure bullying in school.
According to the National Center for
Education Statistics, 32 percent of all students aged 12 to 18 report that they are
bullied in school.
Turbaned Sikh children likely experience bullying at more than double the
national rate, the report said.
It is based on surveys and focus groups
of over 700 Sikh school children and
interviews of over 50 Sikh students in
four metropolitan areas — Seattle,
Indianapolis, Boston and Fresno,
California during 2012 and 2013.
‘It would not be an exaggeration to call
school bullying, particularly as it applies
to turbaned Sikh youth, ‘widespread,’ said
Amardeep Singh, director of programs,
Sikh Coalition, in a statement.
‘Consistently, the majority of Sikh chil-
dren from the coasts to the heartland say
that bias-based bullying is a part of their
experience in school. We need the help of
educators, administrators, lawmakers,
agency officials, the media, parents, and
children if we are going to end this trou-
The report said Sikh children, especial-
ly the turbaned ones, so many years after
September 11, are associated with post-
‘Epithets such as “terrorist” or “Bin
Laden” frequently accompany verbal and
physical abuse,’ it said.
‘Sikh children have been punched,
kicked, and had their turbans ripped off
by fellow students.’
Honda said in a statement that as the
founder and Chair of the Congressional
Anti-Bullying Caucus, and a member of
the Congressional Sikh Caucus, he is
committed to working with community
partners, agencies, and his colleagues in
Congress to eradicate bullying.
The report cites lack of federal data on
the bullying of Sikh school children as a
systematic concern that should be
addressed to better diagnose and target
efforts to solve the issue.
In addition, the absence of or negative
representation of Sikhs in school textbooks nationwide was cited by the report
as an opportunity to better combat or
mitigate school bullying.
‘We have a long-term, institutional commitment to ensuring our children reach
their full human potential,’ Sapreet Kaur,
executive director, Sikh Coalition, said.
‘Our children are our future. We’re committed to making it even brighter for them
everywhere, including in the classroom.’
Rights group United Sikhs has started an online petition against the Drug Free Commercial Driver Act (HR 3403)
introduced by United States Representative
Eric ‘Rick’ Crawford (Republican-Arizona) saying that it would adversely affect Sikhs.
‘This bill would allow motor carriers to use
hair testing as a method for detecting use of
controlled substances by an operator for preemployment testing and later random testing,’
the petition noted.
Anisha Singh, staff attorney and policy advo-
cate, said it would ‘allow employers to force a
Sikh operator to provide a hair sample, thereby
preventing Sikhs from seeking employment as
operators due to their inability to cut their hair.
Once again, Sikhs would have to choose
between employment, and their faith.’
The bill has been co-sponsored by
Representatives Tom Cotton, Tim Griffin, and
Steve Womack (all Republicans from Arizona)
Reid Ribble (Republican, Wisconsin), Jeff
Miller (Republican, Florida), Sean Duffy,
(Republican, Wisconsin), and Randy Weber
‘Sikhism requires its followers to maintain
unshorn hair from birth so one maintains the
body in pristine form. In Sikhism, allowing
one’s hair to grow naturally acts as a symbol of
respect for everything given to us by God. It is
one of the most profound and important
required tenets of the religion. The cutting of a
Sikh’s hair is considered a sacrilegious act,’
United Sikhs noted.
The bill also ‘directs the Secretary of
Transportation to modify regulations and to
develop procedures to allow a motor carrier
during the rulemaking process to apply for an
exemption from current requirements to allow
use of hair testing of operators for controlled
substances instead of other methods (like urine
analysis or blood testing).’
The bill comes on the heels of complaints
from truck drivers in Arizona. Last year,
United Sikhs wrote a legal demand letter to a
trucking company in Arizona, which refused to
hire an elderly Sikh unless he submitted a
freshly cut sample of his hair for drug
The company refused to accept urine analysis, or other means of testing which are commonly used in the trucking industry.
After failing to get a response, United Sikhs
filed a complaint with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission, which is investigating the matter.
“Devout Sikhs should not be forced to choose
between employment, and their faith. We cannot allow incidents like the one in Arizona to
be repeated,” Singh said. “The bill has not been
heard by its committee since it was assigned
there in October 2013. However, we have contacted the appropriate sponsors of the bill and
had dialogue on the issue. Since the bill has not
moved in almost six months, they are not
changing the language, as it is likely to die in
the committee. But they have spoken on working with us if that day comes.”
Hoping to end the deadlock with Indian detainees — who have been on a hunger strike since April 10 — at the El Paso Processing Centre in Texas, the United States
Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities are now
seeking the help of a Sikh faith leader.
The detainees are protesting against not being released on
parole or being given bonds. Leticia Zamarripa, spokeswoman,
ICE, told India Abroad that April 10, around 42 Indian
inmates refused to eat their meals.
“Now, as of April 15, 38 of them are on a hunger strike,” she
said. “Senior El Paso management has spoken to the protesting
detainees and even the chaplain has been speaking to them.”
She added that medical personnel had told the detainees of
potential health consequences of going without food for a long
period of time.
The consulate general of India in Houston also sent officers to
the center to review the situation.
“The Houston consulate officials met the detainees and confirmed their well being and expressed the readiness of the consulate to grant travel documents at the earliest to any detainee
Turbaned Sikh children likely experience
bullying at more than double the national
rate, the report said.
COURTES Y: SIKH COALI TION
Detention facility seeks Sikh leader’s help to end
Sikhs oppose hair
sampling drug test
Over 50 percent Sikh children
bullied in school: Report
Indian inmates’ hunger strike