Sikh Boy's Turban Set on Fire at School
The victim, who is a minor and would like to remain anonymous, is one of only two turban-wearing Sikhs attending Hightstown High School in New Jersey. On Monday, May 5, 2008, the school held a fire drill and all students were instructed to gather on the school playground. The Sikh student was chatting to his friends when a student he did not know came up behind him and set fire to his patka using a lighter.
The Sikh student "felt something hot" on his head and immediately patted his patka to put out the flames. Disaster was averted, but a great deal of emotional damage had already been done.
"No mother should have to worry that her child could be hurt at school because of the way he looks," said Sukhjot Kaur, the teenager's mother.
A History of Violence in New Jersey
This is not the first time a Sikh child has been attacked in New Jersey schools. led to severe contusions to his head and his parents' eventual decision to move him back to school in Britain. As a result of that incident, New Jersey's Division on Civil Rights found "probable cause" that the school failed to meet its legal obligations when it did not protect the boy from bias-based harassment at school.
In 2006, That memorandum cited more bias incidents against Sikh students in New Jersey.
The Sikh Coalition calls on Hightstown High School to take immediate action to address this incident with the school community. Specifically, we recommend that Hightstown High School conduct a school assembly to explain what happened and why the attacker's behavior was especially atrocious; publish an article about the incident in the school newsletter; include information about Sikhs in its social studies curriculum; mandate teacher-led discussions regarding the issue in homeroom period; and do its utmost to ensure that the attacker is held accountable for his actions.
"Hightstown High School has an obligation not only to ensure the safety of its pupils, but also to foster students' appreciation for their community's religious diversity," said Harsimran Kaur, Staff Attorney, Sikh Coalition. "We call on the school and local police to take immediate action to ensure this does not happen again"
The Coalition will work with the local community and police to address this matter. The Coalition continues encourages all Sikhs to fearlessly practice their faith and stand up for their rights.