Earlier this week, the New Jersey Board of Education approved state social studies standards that included teaching about Sikhism for the second time.
This victory was shepherded over the past several months by the Sikh Coalition’s education team, which directly engaged with the Department of Education and New Jersey community members in order to ensure that Sikhism remained in the standards. It also represents the continuation of a victory achieved nine years ago, when New Jersey became just the second state in the nation to formally include Sikhism in its standards. Today, more than 23 million children nationwide–roughly 45 percent of those in public school–are able to learn about Sikhism thanks to advocacy around such standards.
“Every new state that formally recognizes the importance of teaching its students about Sikhism is a success, but it is equally important to see that commitment renewed and upheld years later,” said Pritpal Kaur, Sikh Coalition Education Director. “Only through continued engagement with teachers, administrators, and education policymakers will we keep moving towards a true generational shift in Sikh awareness through our education work.”
This victory comes just two weeks after the Sikh Coalition joined with co-counsel to file suit against a New Jersey school district on behalf of a Sikh student, who has faced ugly harassment since 2018. Despite bullying so severe that the student had to be pulled out of school, the behavior was repeatedly dismissed by school officials–with racial slurs being written off as “nicknames.”
“We are grateful that the Sikh Coalition and the Law Offices of Brian M. Cige have helped us to take this additional step in demanding accountability from the school board,” said the student’s mother when the suit was filed. “While the educational authorities in Gloucester County have made it clear that they are unwilling to help my child, I am hopeful that a civil court will recognize this clear case of bullying and take decisive action.”
To access educational resources that are helpful for students, parents, teachers, and administrators across the country, please visit the Sikh Coalition’s website. And of course, if a child you know faces bullying–or if you or a Sikh you know (of any age) has been subjected to bias, bigotry, or discrimination–please contact our legal teamfor free advice and guidance in English or Punjabi.
Meanwhile, our work to advocate for the Sikh community in New Jersey specifically continues. Since 2018 alone, the Sikh Coalition has facilitated a CBS News television special on the bullying of religious youth in schools (including a Sikh student’s story), partnered with other Sikh organizations to provide cultural competency training for more than 30,000 NJ law enforcement officers, and led campaigns to remove those espousing anti-Sikh rhetoric from and provide subsequent training to both the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office and NJ 101.5 radio station.
As always, the Sikh Coalition urges you to practice your faith fearlessly.