Sometimes teachers can be students, too.

Education Director, Manbeena Kaur, giving a Sikh Awareness and Anti-Bullying Presentation to faculty members at MS 72.

Education Director, Manbeena Kaur, giving a Sikh Awareness and Anti-Bullying Presentation to faculty members at MS 72.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to lead a Sikh Awareness Presentation at Middle School 72 in Queens, NY.  But this time there was a difference: Instead of presenting to students, I was speaking to the faculty.   According to our bias-based harassment survey several Sikh students that attend this school received taunts and threats from their fellow classmates because they are Sikh.  Ordinarily, our objective is to give both a staff and student presentation on Sikhs and bullying issues. However, in this school, we were encouraged to only talk to the faculty because the principal did not want to single out one particular group.  There was a fear that the Sikh students would then receive even more harassment.

After our Community Organizer, Sonny Singh, met with some of the students and discussed the situation, he and I collaborated to work with both the Department of Education as well as the administration from this school to coordinate this presentation.

The staff were given:

  • a short history on Sikhs
  • the tenets of Sikhi (including why Sikhs keep unshorn hair and wear a turban)
  • reasons why Sikhs have been the object of bias and harassment, especially since 9/11
  • reasons why Sikh students are bullied and what they, as teachers, can do about it

This is a great example of how grassroots organizing and education work hand in hand to bring real change into the lives of everyday Sikhs. After the presentation, we received a phone call from one of the students who had been harassed to say that several of his teachers have approached him to ask him questions on his patka and on Sikhi, in general. He has not received any more taunts from his peers, and his teachers understand a little more about the Sikh faith and why he keeps his kesh.

If you would like to do a similar presentation in your child’s school, I encourage you to go to our sister site – http://www.khalsakids.org/explaining.php – where you can download resources to do a Sikh Awareness presentation on your own. If you want more information on delivering presentations, please email me at manbeena@sikhcoalition.org.

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