October 15, 2009

Contact:  Dotty Griffith, Public Education Director, ACLU Foundation of Texas
(512) 478-7300 x 106 or 923-1909; dgriffith@aclutx.org
Or sap@unitedsikhs.org or see www.unitedsikhs.org

ACLU of Texas and United Sikhs Release Joint Letter to Texas ISDs
Protecting Students' Rights Regarding Religious Attire

AUSTIN, TX, USA - The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and UNITED SIKHS, an organization devoted to promoting the civil and human rights of the Sikh community, today released copies of a joint letter addressed to Texas public school districts, reminding districts of the protections for religious dress required by state law and the U.S. Constitution.

The letter is being sent directly to specific school districts where problems have been reported, and is also being issued publicly for use by parents and communities across the state to advocate for students’ rights to wear religious attire at school.

Download copies of the letters

“Both Texas’ Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the U.S. Constitution protect students’ rights to wear religious attire in school, including Sikh students’ rights to wear turbans,” wrote ACLU of Texas Legal Director Lisa Graybill. “The same laws protect Catholic students wearing rosaries, Jewish students wearing yarmulkes, and Native American students wearing long hair in accordance with their religious beliefs,” she added.

Gurvinder Singh, Director,UNITED SIKHS commented, “Sikh students regularly  experience bullying, verbal and physical abuse at school because of their appearance, yet many do not know they can challenge this mistreatment. We hope this letter will empower students and their parents to stand up for their rights.” Singh also urged school administrators to review the Sikh Awareness Project (SAP), a school appropriate program designed to prevent harassment,  available online at www.unitedsikhs.org/sap/. UNITED SIKHS has been giving presentations at schools around the nation, and is available for a presentation at your child's school.

“Unfortunately, ignorance can lead to intolerance and discrimination,” noted Fleming Terrell, Staff Attorney for the ACLU of Texas.  ““The ACLU of Texas partnered with UNITED SIKHS to address this problem by making this letter available as a tool that Sikh families can use to educate their school districts about their religious practices and students’ rights.”

Issued by:
Jaspreet Singh
Staff Attorney
(646) 315-3909