March 7, 2022 (Whiteland, IN) -- Today, our client--a Sikh high school senior at Whiteland Community High School (WCHS) in Whiteland, Indiana--is back at school with a safety plan in place after he faced severe bias-motivated harassment and physical assault
from a group of students who made statements including “Why do you wear these turbans” and “Why are you here?”
In the aftermath of the attack, the student retained the Sikh Coalition for free legal support. In response, we co-counseled with local attorney, Komal Sahi, to advocate for our client’s safe return to school and for WCHS officials to address the systemic bias-based bullying issues permeating the school environment.
“Our top priority is ensuring that students at this high school are in a safe learning environment where they can all successfully work towards achieving their potential without fear of being targeted for who they are,” said Amrith Kaur Aakre, Sikh Coalition Legal Director. “We are pleased that school officials have recognized the urgency in responding to these needs, and have also committed to updating their training and procedures to better address future bias-based issues for all students.”
Specifically, school officials have committed to a plan that ensures our client will return to a safer school environment and will have the resources available to make up for the instruction missed during his suspension. In addition, school officials have also agreed to remove the suspension from our client’s record given the bullies’ ongoing biased rhetoric towards our client and their attempts to instigate an assault against him in this incident. Finally, school officials will also review and update WCHS’ anti-bias, Sikh awareness, and cultural competence programming for students and school staff.
Additionally, the Sikh Coalition hosted a virtual Community Town Hall for the Indianapolis Sikh community on March 6 that focused on all of the related issues taking place within Indiana’s public school system. During the event, current and former WCHS students expressed their experiences and how they would like the sangat to move forward in creating safer schools for all students.
“We are deeply grateful to every community member who joined us for this virtual town hall and courageously shared their stories,” said Harman Singh, Sikh Coalition Senior Manager of Education. “In the weeks ahead, we look forward to engaging the sangat on building safer communities that protect all students, including through trainings for WCHS educators and advocacy workshops on ensuring the inclusion of Sikhi in middle school classrooms."
The Sikh Coalition has worked to create safer and inclusive classrooms for Sikhs and other underrepresented minorities nationwide for more than two decades. In Indiana, our long-term education and advocacy efforts in coordination with local sangat members and gurdwaras resulted in the state becoming the 13th nationwide
to include Sikhi in its social studies standards.
As always, the Sikh Coalition urges you to practice your faith fearlessly.