SIKHS Legal Team presents Testimony at Hearing on NYC Department of
Education's Efforts to Combat Bullying and Proposed Resolution No.
473-A & 474-A
- To view UNITED SIKHS legal fellow testifying at the hearing click here.
- UNITED SIKHS has been working across the nation
to raise awareness about Sikhs and Sikhism in the context of Bullying
- UNITED SIKHS is working with government
agencies, including the Department of Justice Community Relations
Service to craft a bullying prevention training that addresses the
needs and concerns of the Sikh community.
- Be Involved, Click here to get started! To donate go to www.unitedsikhs.org/donate.
New York City, New York, USA
– On June 13, 2011, the New York City Council’s Education Committee,
which is chaired by Councilman Robert Jackson, held a public hearing
entitled “Hearing on Department of Education’s Efforts to Combat
Bullying and Proposed Res. No. 473-A & Proposed Res. No. 474-A.” It
was an oversight hearing regarding the Department of Education’s (DOEs)
overall efforts to combat bullying, the implementation of the Dignity
for All Students Act, and the impact of the Respect for All (RFA)
program (to learn more about the RFA program click here).
UNITED SIKHS was represented by Ilana Ofgang, Legal Fellow at the New
York office. The following points were put forward by UNITED SIKHS
during the testimony-
the hearing, the Council members addressed their thoughts on the
Department of Education’s efforts to combat bullying. Councilman
Daniel Dromm mentioned that in his work as an educator he had seen a
Sikh boy’s turban pulled off and he felt that the majority of bullying
he saw was on the bus or after school. Dromm emphasized this
point by adding that, when he saw the Sikh boy’s turban pulled off it
was while he was walking out of the school, which evidences a need for
bullying prevention training of not only teachers but all school staff
and administrators. As a member of the LGBT community, Councilman Dromm
also illustrated personal accounts of his own experiences and asked for
positive LGBT role models to be highlighted more prevalently.
- ~ 60% of Sikh students have experienced bullying, as shown in surveys, of which almost ~70% of Sikh boys are the targets.
- These statistics show that bullying against
Sikh youth is more than a series of isolated incidents. The community
has experienced a collective trauma from bullying in a post 9/11
- Sikh youth expressed concern that there is a lack of follow up by teachers when students report that they have been bullied.
- There is a lack of religious and cultural sensitivity teachers have toward Sikh students who have reported being bullied.
- DOE’s efforts to combat bullying through the
partial implementation of the Dignity for All Students Act, and the
roll out of the Respect for All program has too often failed Sikh
students who are bullied.
- UNITED SIKHS is encouraged by the direct
Congressional oversight and reporting requirements that would be
required through the Safe Schools Improvement Act of 2011 and offered
its support of the proposed resolutions. However,
for any policy or anti-bullying legislation to be effective in
safe-guarding Sikh youth, UNITED SIKHS urged that it must include:
- Requirements for any data reporting to
include categories for Sikhs or have generic categories where Sikhs can
be identified so as to get accurate numbers on the impact that bullying
is having on Sikh students.
- To require not merely reporting, but
diversity training within classrooms so that the teachers will have the
tools with which to address reports of bullying when they receive them.
The discussion also touched upon the effectiveness of “Respect for All
Week” (RFA) in schools, the age of “cyber bullying,” the Dignity for
All Students Act (DASA), the training of RFA liaisons and teachers, and
potential solutions to better prevent bullying. Throughout the New York
City school system, there are one or more Respect For All Liaisons
assigned to each school, who can be identified on posters displayed
publically in the school. These liaisons are specifically for
students, so if you, your child or anyone you know has been a victim of
bullying, tell them to look for the RFA posters at their school to find
the contact information for their RFA liason. However, anyone in the
school, including a principal or teacher could be contacted on the
To prevent bullying and other types of bias based harassment in a post
9/11 environment, UNITED SIKHS asked the DOE for more diversity
training and more education on Sikhs and religious minorities. In
her testimony, Ilana Ofgang commented, “Our teachers must be armed with
more than punitive measures (i.e. detention, suspension), rather, they
must be given tools to learn about the different communities they teach
in order to be able to respond appropriately when a student is bullied
because of their faith.”
To view UNITED SIKHS testimony at the hearing, click here.
For several years UNITED SIKHS has been working with the Sikh community
to combat bullying (click here and here to read more). In New
York, UNITED SIKHS staff has conducted Bullying Truth Commissions and
focus groups to provide an outlet for Sikh youth to talk about their
experiences in addition to the legal team working with individuals who
have been victims of ongoing and repeated instances of bullying.
According to the results of surveys and interviews conducted by UNITED
SIKHS in the Greater New York Area (n=165), it is revealed that
Sikh children are disproportionately impacted by bullying. Nationally,
around one third (33.33%) of students reported being bullied at
schools, however, UNITED SIKHS survey revealed that 56.4% of Sikh
children have experienced being bullied. We also found a significant
relationship between bullying and gender; of those who reported being
bullied, 68.8% were Sikh males. Since much of the bullying that occurs
goes unreported, it is likely that the actual number of Sikh children
impacted by bullying is much higher. Complete information on these
surveys and commissions can be found in the 2010 Global Sikh Civil and
Human Rights Report published by UNITED SIKHS (see page 136 of the
Report). The report can be found by clicking here.
What's next? UNITED SIKHS is working to craft a bullying
prevention initiative that will provide individuals, schools, and
organizations with the tools necessary to conduct bullying prevention
trainings and also educate the participants about Sikhs & Sikhism.
In doing so, UNITED SIKHS is collaborating with government agencies,
including the Department of Justice/ Community Relations Service.
Please Help Support
Us in the Fight to make Bullying History, Make a One Time Donation or
Become Our Elite Recurring Donor by clicking here: www.unitedsikhs.org/donate.
See the links below for some additional resources on bullying prevention:
- If your child has been bullied, including verbal and/or physical harassment;
- If you have reported
incidents of bullying to your child's school and you feel that the
school has not taken adequate steps to punish the bully, ensure your
child's safety, and/or to prevent such incidents from being repeated;
- If you would like UNITED
SIKHS to present educational materials on Sikhism to your child's
school and/or to make a presentation to faculty/staff on effective
measures to prevent, control, and rectify bullying;
Please contact UNITED SIKHS and report your incident by email (email@example.com) or by phone at 1-888-243-1690.
NYC DOE has released brochures that provide valuable information about what to do when you or someone you know has been bullied.
- For English versions, click here
- For Punjabi version, click here
Or you can e-mail the DOE at RespectforAll@schools.nyc.gov
The hearing included testimony from witnesses such as Elayna Konstan,
Chief Executive Officer of the Office of School and Youth Development
(OSYD) at the NYC DOE and Connie Cuttle, Director of Professional
Development for OSYD. Additionally, organizations such as the United
Federation of Teachers (UFT), the New York Civil Liberties Union, the
Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), the Sikh
Coalition, and UNITED SIKHS presented their testimonies. In
attendance at the hearing was also Council Member Robert Jackson, who
chairs the City Council’s Education Committee, and other Council
Member’s such as Daniel Dromm, from Queens, Councilman Lewis Fidler,
Councilman Charles Barron.
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Protect Our Identity (POI)
is an ongoing international campaign launched by UNITED SIKHS in August
2010 . It focuses on the need to protect the Sikh community's right to
express its religious identity. Initiatives under the POI
UNITED SIKHS is currently looking for enthusiastic volunteers who are
willing to spread the message of the campaign within their own
communities. To join or contribute to the campaign, volunteer or donate to UNITED SIKHS.
- Right to Turban
- Airport Security in European Union and United States
- Anti-Bullying Initiatives
- Rehabilitation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Pakistan
- Equality in Employment
- Right to Kakaars
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Awareness of Sikhs and Sikhism to reduce acts of violence and
xenophobia against Sikhs.
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