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Sikh News A 1st-US School May Be Held Liable For Failing To Stop Harassment Of Sikh Student

Jul 10, 2006
Source:NJ Division on Civil Rights Finds in Favor of Sikh Student

[SIZE=+2]The Sikh Coalition[/SIZE]
[SIZE=+2] NJ Division on Civil Rights Files [SIZE=+2]Discrimination[/SIZE] Charge on Behalf of Sikh Student in Historic Case
"I would like to thank the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights and the Sikh Coalition for helping me get some measure of justice for my son and reaffirming his innocence in this sad event. Through this historic verfied complaint and the progressing legal action, I hope that no Sikh pupil will ever have to suffer through bias and harassment in an American school again."
--- Jaspal Singh Virdee speaking about his son's case

See Video: Father Speaks About Son's Case
(New Jersey Network News December 2003)​
Read the NJ Civil Rights Division's Findings​
Community Resources from the NJ Division on Civil Rights in English and Punjabi
Fact Sheet: Religious Discrimination
English Version
Punjabi Version
Fact Sheet: Racial Discrimination
English Version
Punjabi Version

Action Marks the First Time a School in the United States May be Held Liable for Failing to Stop Harassment of Sikh Student

(New York, New York) February 19, 2006 – The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights ("Division") found "probable cause" that a middle school failed to meet its obligations under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination when it did not take adequate measures to protect a Sikh student from bias-based harassment. The harassment and abuse was so severe that the Sikh student's parents decided to send him back to his native England to finish his schooling.​
The Sikh Coalition worked with the student's father to file the initial complaint and cooperated in the Division's investigation.

First Incident
The Sikh student, Kabir Singh, was a seventh grader at Marlboro Middle School in Marlboro, New Jersey at the time he was subject to harassment. According to the Division's Finding of Probable Cause, on November 19, 2002 a student touched Kabir's patka because another student dared him to do so. The student who touched Kabir's patka was suspended for a day and the student who initiated the dare spent the day in Saturday detention. The students also apologized to Kabir afterwards.
Second Incident
On February 12, 20003, approximately 3 months after the first incident, an 8th grade student hit Kabir on the head and called him "Osama." Later that day the student again referred to Kabir as "Osama" in a hallway and a friend of the student forcibly bumped into Kabir resulting in an injury to his head.
After reporting the incident to school authorities Kabir was kept in school but the school failed to notify his parents of what had taken place. Kabir called his parents from school to come pick him up in a very distressed state.
Later that night, Kabir's parents found that he was having difficulty maintaining his balance so they brought him to a hospital. Doctors at the hospital found that Kabir had suffered a injury to the head and contusions. Kabir also complained of headaches for weeks after the incident. A doctor recommended bed rest so Kabir stayed home from school.
School officials initially blamed and want to discipline Kabir for the incident because he acknowledged accidently touching the attacker while turning around to face his attacker and protect his head from further attacks. They however dropped the disciplinary action as a result of a letter from the Sikh Coalition stating Kabir's account of what happened and his parent's protests.
Fearing for Kabir's safety and not satisfied with the school's efforts to protect him, Kabir's parents made the difficult decision to send Kabir back to his native England to finish his schooling. He continues his education in England.

Complaint Filed with Sikh Coalition's Assistance and Findings of the NJ Division on Civil Rights'
During the summer of 2003 the Sikh Coalition and Sutinder Singh, a member of the New Jersey Governor's Ethnic Advisory Council, brought this matter the Civil Rights Division's attention along with Kabir's father. The Civil Rights Division soon thereafter initiated an investigation into matter.
The Civil Rights Division's investigation found that though the school initiated a series of remedial measures after the second incident (Kabir's mother and Sikh university student made a presentation on Sikhism to school faculty and student leaders; the Monmouth County Prosecutor's office made a presentation to 7th and 8th grade students on bias, harassment, and bullying; the school added a religious/ethnic component to its scripted tolerance discussions which included a chapter from a textbook on Sikhism), the school "did not take enough prompt action in response to the November 2002 bias-based harassment, and its failure to promptly put remedial measures in place permitted [Kabir] to be subjected to a more severe bias-based harassment and assault roughly three months later."

Case Going Forward
The Division issued its Probable Cause finding this past December. In response, the school filed a motion to dismiss the complaint which the Division rejected. The Division will therefore move forward with its action against the school for failing to provide an atmosphere that adequately protected Kabir from bias-based harassment.
The Coalition would like to sincerely thank the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights and its Director, Frank Vespa-Papaleo, for their hard work to ensure that all New Jersey school children are free from bias in schools.


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