Officials Commit to Protecting Sikh Student, Addressing Broader Pattern of Bias-Based Bullying
March 7, 2022 (Whiteland, IN) — On February 23, a Sikh high school senior at Whiteland Community High School (WCHS) in Whiteland, Indiana faced severe bias-motivated harassment and assault from a group of students.
This attack was the culmination of months of relentless bullying against the student that the perpetrators had been engaging in. Soon after the incident, 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 work with 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.”
On March 4, school officials committed to a plan that ensures our client will return to a safer school environment as of today 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 during this incident. Finally, school officials will also review and update WCHS’ anti-bias, Sikh awareness, and cultural competence programming for students and school staff.
“Educators play an important role in both enforcing standards of conduct that protect all students and creating opportunities for learning that help us learn more about each other,” said Harman Singh, Sikh Coalition Senior Manager of Education. “In the weeks ahead, we look forward to deepening our engagement with school administrators and moving towards a shared vision with the community that protects every student.”
As a reminder, a group of students began filming our client and other Punjabi students eating lunch in the cafeteria, making statements including “Why do you wear these turbans” and “Why are you here?” After our client tried to prevent them from filming, several students proceeded to assault him, including by knocking his turban off of his head and trampling it, and making bigoted remarks about his turban and his race throughout the assault. In the aftermath of the assault, our client was suspended for five days for ‘getting in a fight.’
The Sikh Coalition looks forward to providing further updates on this case moving forward.