A hate crime against a Sikh schoolboy in New York has led to the start of Khalsakids.org, a website dedicated to helping Sikh students fight bullying in school.
Designed as an interactive resource tool, it features a discussion forum, videos, and downloadable presentations. Parents and teachers can also use the website's sample lesson plans and games to teach others about the Sikh community.
Sikh Coalition, a New York based community organisation, started Khalsakids.org in response to an incident earlier this year in which a Sikh boy's turban was forcibly removed and his hair cut by a schoolmate in New York's Queens area. The boy has since changed schools for safety reasons and a jury has indicted the culprit.
After the attack, the Sikh Coalition issued a civil rights report "Hatred in the Hallways" on the problems Sikh children face in school. The report, based on a survey of New York City Sikhs, revealed that nearly 75 per cent of Sikh boys in the Queens borough, which has a concentration of Sikh households, are harassed or intimidated because of their long hair and turban. People call them "Osama bin Laden" or "terrorists", often threatening or physically harassing them.
Khalsakids.org, the founders says, is a way for Sikh children to feel proud of their identity and to give them the tools to combat bias in school.
The Sikh Coalition has also been working with the Department of Education over the past few months to make New York City schools safer for Sikhs. On September 25, schools chancellor Joel Klein sent a letter to all school principals in New York City stressing the importance of diversity in schools, and pointing to the hair-cutting incident as a cautionary example.