GREENBURGH, March 16, 2005
Laders in the Central 7 school district have cleared
the suspension record of a 15-year-old student who
wore a small ceremonial knife to school and agreed
to let him wear a smaller version of the sacred symbol.
Ninth-grade honors student Amandeep Singh of Hartsdale
had been wearing a kirpan an article of faith
in the Sikh religion since he was baptized
at age 8. Many of his friends and teachers knew about
it, his family said. But on Feb. 4, Singh was suspended
from Woodlands High School for eight days and charged
with carrying a weapon.
"We had to balance the student's First Amendment
rights along with the safety of all of our students
in the district," said Schools Superintendent
Josephine Moffett, explaining that weapons of all
kinds are forbidden at school. She said the kirpan
was the size of a knife.
Singh's brother, Kamaldeep Singh, a 22-year-old financial
analyst for Morgan Stanley, said the kirpan was 3
inches long and "as sharp as a butter knife."
Speaking for Amandeep, who was ill yesterday, he said
their family brought in a steel ruler and a compass
to show school officials that common classroom utensils
were sharper. He said Amandeep has explained the significance
of the kirpan to some of his teachers, but never displayed
it at school until the interim principal asked to
see it last month.
"He never had any disciplinary problems. Teachers
loved him. They knew about the kirpan," he said.
"It's ironic, because it is a place of education,
but if the school was educated about this, this would
never have happened, because they saw it as a weapon,
and we view it as an article of faith comparable to
a yarmulke or a cross."
Kamaldeep Singh said their family is indebted to
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in Washington,
which sent lawyers to negotiate an agreement between
the family and school.
"What we have here is evidence of religious
discrimination," said Jared Leland, media and
legal counsel for Becket. "He was really being
forced to choose between attending a public school
and practicing his faith, and that's something that
the First Amendment does not tolerate."
Leland said he thought school officials were initially
misinformed, but were amenable to working out an agreement
and dropping the charges.
Moffett said their agreement acknowledges the necessity
for security as well as religious expression. "I
want to respect his religion that's absolutely
necessary," she said.
In a letter to the family, Moffett reviewed the agreement,
in which the kirpan "would be securely fastened
into a cloth pouch ... worn under Amandeep's clothing
so that it would not be visible."
Kamaldeep Singh commended school officials for establishing
a policy that will accommodate other Sikh students.
"After they realized their mistakes, they were
very professional about everything," he said.
"They're willing for us to come in and educate
On the day he was sent home from school, Amandeep
Singh posted a plea on a Sikh Web forum: "I need
your help. I was sent home today from school for my
kirpan. Past so many years, no one has bothered me
about it but today someone thought it would be funny
to report me. All the administrators and school resource
officer are fine with it, but by law (they) had to
send me home until they can get in contact with their
He asked for help in finding articles explaining
the kirpan and about court cases on this issue.
In 1997, the American Civil Liberties Union and the
Livingston Union School District in California school
reached a settlement that guaranteed the right of
baptized Sikh students to attend school wearing a
kirpan. It came after three children missed a semester
because they were not allowed to.
The Supreme Court of Canada is hearing a similar
The ACLU said there has never been an incident of
kirpan-related violence in school in the United States
or Canada.Source- ( thejournalnews)