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1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
News release by personal email.

SALDEF Working for Kirpan Accommodation in
Michigan School District

Superindent Issues Temporary Ban Until Resolution is Reached

(Detroit, MI) January 7, 2011: SALDEF is deeply concerned over the temporary ban of the kirpan from Plymouth-Canton Community Schools (P-CSS) in Michigan, which was prompted by a young Sikh boy wearing his kirpan to Bentley Elementary School. The Principal of the school recognized the religious significance of the kirpan and was inclined to allow the young Sikh boy to continue wearing his kirpan until the District convened a meeting to discuss a proper resolution.

Deputy Superintendent, Kenneth J. Jacobs, issued a memo that stated, "until such time as a compromise is reached, any and all religious emblems that resemble a weapon are strictly prohibited." SALDEF and UNITED SIKHS wrote to the Superintendent last month to allow the student to continue practicing his faith while the District worked with civil rights advocates to fashion an appropriate resolution. SALDEF is optimistic for a positive outcome given the Superintendent's statement that the District respects the "right of all students to practice their religion and wear religious symbols."

Additionally, the local Sikh community has worked to educate their neighbors about the Sikh faith and the kirpan through a Community Forum that took place on January 6, 2011 at St. Thomas a'Becket Catholic Church in Canton, Michigan. Concerned parents, representatives from the school system, and local community members learned about Sikhs, their beliefs, and their values through a presentation developed and delivered by Jaspal Kaur in conjunction with SALDEF.

The presentation was followed by group sessions to facilitate more intimate dialogue between Sikhs and non-Sikhs about inclusivity and diversity. The audience was given Who are the Sikhs? brochures and SALDEF 2011 Sikh Awareness Pocket Calendars as supplemental informational materials.

Read more about the Community Forum: Sikh forum aims at undersanding (Canton Observer)

An absolute prohibition on the kirpan would likely violate Michigan's protection of religious freedom under the State Constitution. SALDEF will strive to coordinate efforts with other civil rights organizations to ensure that our articles of faith are safeguarded. SALDEF, UNITED SIKHS, and Sikh Coalition, in collaboration with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, sent a follow-up letter to the District today and will continue to pursue this case until an amicable resolution has been reached. Sikh students should practice their faith fearlessly without having to choose between religious adherence and obtaining a proper education.

SALDEF applauds the Michigan community for their educational efforts and ecourages all Sikh Americans to similarly inform their community about the Sikh faith to proactively protect against such issues. SALDEF urges all Sikh Americans to immediately report any form of discrimination or racially motivated crime; please contact SALDEF directly toll free at 1.877.91SIKHS or via our Report an Incident Form. At this link http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5227/signUp.jsp?key=1739



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