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Press Release (For Immediate Release

September 3, 2008, 11:30 a.m.)

NYC Department of Education Releases Chancellor's Regulation to Prevent Bias-Based Harassment and Bullying in Schools

 

1.1. Million Students to be Affected by New Regulation Championed by the Sikh Coalition and Community Groups; Coalition is Cautiously Optimistic

Contact

Amardeep Singh,                  (212) 655-3095, x 83 or        (917) 628-0091

Sonny Singh, (212) 655-3095, x 86 or (917) 399-5493

(New York, NY) September 3, 2008 -  This morning, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, along with the Sikh Coalition and other community organizations, announced the creation of a historic new Chancellor's Regulation that defines, tracks, and aims to prevent bias-based harassment in NYC public schools.   The Sikh Coalition applauds the Chancellor and Mayor for taking this critical step in ridding city schools of bias-based harassment. 

 

The new regulation, A-832, "establishes a procedure for the filing, investigation, and resolution of complaints of student-to-student bias-based harassment, intimidation, and/or bullying" (Regulation of the Chancellor A-832).  Highlights of the regulation include:

  • A point person at every single school in the city to whom reports of bias-based harassment can be made;
  • A full investigation of an incident within 5 days;
  • A written report for the alleged victim of the results of any incident within 10 days;
  • Training on bias-based harassment and "Respect for All" diversity training to all students and staff annually.
  • A means to appeal to DOE headquarters in case a student is not satisfied with how a school responds to acts of bias

 

"The Chancellor in June promised a new regulation this Fall 'that incorporates recommendations from the Sikh Coalition,'" said Amardeep Singh, Executive Director of the Sikh Coalition.  We are heartened by today's announcement. The number of Sikh children being harassed in New York City's schools is an epidemic.  Sikhs took to the streets in June to urge the Department to take immediate steps end bigotry against our children. We believe today's announcement to be groundbreaking movement in the right direction."

 

The Sikh Coalition will continue to report on the DOE's performance in eliminating bias-based bullying in schools and work with the DOE to end bias in our schools. 

 

The critical need for the new regulation stemmed in part from the high number of Sikh students being harassed in NYC schools.  This June, two Sikh students were attacked in Queens schools.  On June 9, Gurprit Kaur, a student at P.S. 219 in Flushing discovered that another student had cut off a portion of her religiously-mandated uncut hair and discarded it.  On June 3, Jagmohan Singh Premi was punched in the face after a student intentionally attempted to remove his patka (smaller turban).at Richmond Hill High School.  In addition, in May 2007 a Sikh boy's hair was forcibly cut by another student in a hate crime in another Queens public school.   

 

This past April, the Sikh Coalition released a civil rights report, "Making Our Voices Heard: A Civil Rights Agenda for New York City Sikhs,"  which found that more than 60% of over 400 Sikh students that the Coalition surveyed had suffered bias-based harassment or violence in city schools because of their Sikh identity.

 

"This is a great day for New York City's school children," said Chancellor Joel Klein.  "We expect our schools to be free of bias-based bullying, and today's announcement will help us achieve that goal.  During the course of creating this new regulation, the Sikh Coalition and its allies, particularly the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund and Coalition for Asian American Children and Families, played a crucial role.  We look forward to continuing to partner with community organizations to make our schools safe places to learn."

 

Though not included in the regulation, the DOE also announced that it will publish annual reports on bias-based harassment in individual schools.  While the Sikh Coalition commends the DOE's commitment today to annual public reporting, the Coalition calls on the DOE to insert a public reporting requirement within the regulation itself.    In addition, today's regulation governs student-to-student harassment only. The Coalition would like to see the regulation cover harassment by any DOE employee on school premises or at a school function. The Sikh Coalition's "Making Our Voices Heard" report found that 5% of bias incidents against Sikh school students originated from Department staff. 

 

All these items were a part of the Dignity in All Schools Act, passed by the City Council in 2004.  The DOE has declined to implement the Act on the disputed basis that the City Council has no jurisdiction over its conduct. 

 

The Coalition looks forward to enhancing the regulation where necessary in the coming months and years and also working with the DOE to ensure that city schools are bias-free environments for all school children.  The Sikh Coalition believes that today's announcement demonstrates strong movement to end bias in schools on the part of the Department.

 

"I hope this new policy means that other students won't have to go through what I went through," stated Jagmohan Singh Premi, who was violently attacked on June 3, 2008 at Richmond Hill High school after almost a year of daily bias-based bullying.  "Sikh students should feel safe in their schools." 

 "While this new regulation is an important step, it is only half the battle," stated Sonny Singh, Sikh Coalition Community Organizer.  "We will continue to review the safety of Sikh students in city schools and work to ensure that the regulation is fully implemented on the ground.  The Sikh Coalition and our allies will continue our watchdog role.  We will also continue to work with the DOE to secure new changes and enhancements to the regulation." 

 

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The Sikh Coalition is a community-based organization that works for the realization of civil and human rights for all people. The Coalition serves as a resource on Sikhs and Sikh concerns for government, organizations and individuals.