Respect For All Week: Bring Sikh awareness to NYC schools!

February 24, 2010

This March 8th-12th is the first ever “Respect For All Week” in New York City public schools.  During this week, schools are being encouraged to hold awareness-raising programs to combat bullying based on race, religion, gender and more.

The Sikh Coalition is partnering with the Department of Education (DOE) to make the first ever Respect For All Week a success.  But we need your help. We are offering schools free Sikh Awareness Presentations where Sikh Coalition-trained educators will come into schools and conduct presentations and trainings for students and teachers about Sikhism.  Raising awareness about Sikhi is necessary to reduce the bullying and harassment that youth in our community face.  We are also working with the DOE to make lesson plans about Sikh awareness available to all teachers in New York City so they can teach accurate information about Sikhi in their classes during Respect For All Week and beyond.

What we’re asking parents AND Sikh students in NYC public schools to do:

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Sikh Teachers in Their Own Words

February 12, 2010

My name is Gurprasad Kaur Khalsa and I am an observant practitioner of the Sikh faith.  I have been teaching in the Los Angeles public schools for 22 years, dressed in full bana, which includes wearing a white turban on my head.  I am a bilingual teacher of Spanish and English and work in dual language programs in the primary grades.  My dress is part of my practice of Sikhism, which for me is much more than a religion.  It’s a way of life.  My dress is an integral part of my practice, and it would be hypocritical of me not to wear it to work.  I was told by the school administrator who hired me that they would not be able to consider themselves an institution of learning if they did not allow me to express my faith in the way that I choose.

My name is Siri Datar Kaur. I am biology teacher in Queens, New York.  I earned my teaching degree at Lehman College and have been teaching science for 5 years. I enjoy assisting students in learning about the wonders of life, how the body works, the interrelatedness of life, and the scientific method. Students enjoy a hands on approach that facilitates an understanding of the subject matter in an enjoyable way and in the process learn valuable skills, such as critical evaluation reading comprehension and writing. I wear a turban and this has not been not been an obstacle to my success as a teacher.  It is important for our community to know that we can and should be able to work in any position we are qualified for, without prejudice.

My name is Ajeet Singh.  As a New York City schoolteacher, I taught about the diversity of our world through the state’s World History curriculum. Although I wear a turban in accordance with my religious beliefs, my Sikh identity did not offend my students and did not prevent them from succeeding. The view of New York policymakers is that children who grow up in a diverse society will become better citizens if they gain exposure to people from different backgrounds. We know that only education can overcome ignorance and promote a more tolerant society. In an increasingly globalized world, we cannot afford to remain blind to diversity. It’s a fact of life.

My name is Hardip Singh. As a Sikh, I wear a turban.  After my retirement in 1995, I served as a substitute teacher for two years in Fairfax and Prince William Counties in Northern Virginia.  As a substitute teacher, I taught ESL, Biology, and Home Economics at all levels of school, including Elementary, Middle, and High School, and Special Education Adult High Schools.

Guest Blog: Ravitej Singh (A Victory in Oregon)

February 11, 2010

On Wednesday, February 10, 2010, the Oregon House of Representatives honored Oregon’s dedication to inclusion and diversity.

Since 1923, a KKK-sponsored law prohibiting religious clothing worn by school teachers has been part of Oregon law. In the mid 1980s, a Sikh teacher was terminated and discredited because of this law for wearing a turban to her school.   In 2009, the law was upheld after the Oregon legislature carved out an exclusion for public schools under the Oregon Workplace Religious Freedom Act.

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Bigotry in all the Wrong Places?

February 11, 2010

You may be surprised by who said this last week at a hearing of the Oregon House Education Committee (brace yourself):

“About every other year a new private school opens in Oregon,” GUESS WHO testified. Christian parents “have created those private Christian schools largely because they feel that the public school system is hostile to their religious beliefs. Those parents and people like them are going to feel even more so if their first-graders were being taught by Muslim women in burkas and Sikh teachers in turbans… I look forward to the day when the orthodox Jewish parent welcomes the fact that his 6-year-old daughter is going to be a captive audience in the Muslim teacher’s or the Wiccan teacher’s classroom for 180 days a year.” Read the rest of this entry »