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SALDEF Policy Of Discrimination Reversed: Sikh American Child Allowed To Enroll In Texas Public School


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Policy of Discrimination Reversed: Sikh American Child Allowed to Enroll In Texas Public School

October 28, 2010 (Clute, TX) - SALDEF in collaboration with the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) has succeeded in overturning a long-standing policy of discrimination against religious headgear in the Brazosport Independent School District in Texas. The case has allowed a Sikh American fourth grader to enter school and also resulted in a revision of the District's school dress code.

Earlier this year, Gundeep Singh’s parents attempted to enroll him in Gladys Polk Elementary School in Clute, TX. The enrollment proceeded until a school official saw Gundeep with his patka, a religiously mandated head covering. At that point, the Singh family was told that Gundeep would not be able to wear a patka nor keep his uncut hair at the school because it was in violation of the school's “no hats” policy and the district’s dress code policy regarding hair length for boys. They were then referred to Deputy Superintendent of the school district, Mr. Dennis McNaughten, who advised the family to enroll Gundeep in another school.

“The school's policy prevented its students from practicing their religion freely, which is in direct violation of the United States Constitution and the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act," said SALDEF Managing Director Kavneet Singh. “Regrettably we still see such incidents across the country of Sikh Americans being refused access to public schools, denied employment, and being subjected to hate crimes, primarily due to their distinct identity.”

TCRP and SALDEF acted immediately by issuing a letter to the district to contest the school's position and demand that Gundeep be allowed to enroll. Additionally, TCRP and SALDEF urged the District to revise their school dress code polices to include safeguards for individuals of various faiths and to conduct a training seminar to ensure administrators across the district would be better informed about the religious practices of Sikh American children, as well as more fully understand the issues they face, specifically with regards to bullying and harassment.

Within a few days, Gundeep Singh was admitted into Gladys Polk Elementary. The school district also adopted revisions suggested by SALDEF to their “no hat” policy and the existing standard for hair length for boys. These revisions will ensure that students of various faiths who hold religious beliefs will be able to “keep hair long or uncut, or wear religious headwear or clothing.”

“We’re glad we stood up for our rights and that our son can go back to school," said Gundeep's father Jarnail Singh. "We are so thankful to TCRP and SALDEF for their assistance and support of our son and family.”

SALDEF would like to sincerely thank Wayne Krause and his team at the Texas Civil Rights Project for their invaluable leadership in this case, as well as our colleagues at the Sikh Coalition for their initial backing in this matter.

SALDEF would also like to encourage all Sikh Americans to ensure that their rights are not violated. If you or anyone in your family experiences a similar incident or any denial of access due to your articles of faith, please contact SALDEF immediate either online or call us toll free at 877.917.4547.



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