Sikh American children deserve the opportunity to learn and grow without the daily fear of being bullied, harassed, and discriminated against in U.S. schools. Sadly, a recent report by the Sikh Coalition, a civil rights advocacy organization, reveals that more than two-thirds of Sikh American students face bullying in school. The report highlights the disturbing reality of how ignorance, prejudice, and a sense of “otherness” harm these vulnerable children’s educational, social, and emotional well-being. It is time for schools, policymakers, and society at large to take urgent and comprehensive action to combat bullying against Sikh American kids and to create a safe, inclusive, and diverse learning environment.
The report is a wake-up call to the gravity and scope of bullying that Sikh American students face in school. It reveals that 67% of Sikh American students experience bullying, primarily due to their visible religious identity, including wearing turbans, patkas, and other religious symbols. This bullying takes various forms, including verbal teasing, physical aggression, name-calling, and racial slurs. Sikh girls, in particular, face gender-based bullying, including comments on their dress and body hair.
The consequences of bullying are devastating for Sikh American students, both academically and emotionally. The report notes that many students feel anxious, depressed, or suicidal due to bullying. Some parents surveyed have even transferred their children to different schools or opted to homeschool them to keep them safe. Moreover, the harm from bullying often extends beyond the immediate experience, leading to lifelong emotional scars that can hinder social and academic success.
The report argues that the root causes of bullying against Sikh American students are a lack of understanding and prejudice surrounding Sikhism. Many Americans are unaware of the Sikh religion and its unique values, beliefs, and practices, leading to confusion about a Sikh’s turban and beard, which many wrongfully associate with terrorism or foreignness.
The report has laid out several recommendations, including implementing culturally competent anti-bullying programs, providing accurate and inclusive representations of Sikh Americans in the curriculum, raising awareness about the significance and meaning of Sikh religious symbols, and engaging with parents and community leaders to create a supportive and inclusive school culture.
However, these recommendations require that our society sees Sikh Americans as an essential and legitimate part of our diverse culture. To combat bullying, we must tackle the broader issue of our society’s perception of religious and racial minorities. We can start by educating ourselves and our communities about the Sikh religion and celebrating the diversity that it contributes to our society. It also demands white Americans acknowledge that they are responsible for bullying Sikh children.
The Sikh American children who face bullying today will one day become the leaders of tomorrow. They belong to a rich culture that has made invaluable contributions to our society, including standing up for justice, equality, and human rights. Our responsibility is to stand in solidarity with these children, creating an environment that actively values and cherishes their cultural heritage. The Sikh Coalition report shows that we have work to do, but we can create a safer, more inclusive society for all with collective action.