After harassment of Sikh bus driver, Maryland school district agrees to awareness training

Religion News Service | 5/29/2019 | Staff
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(RNS) — For more than a decade, Sawinder Singh took the harassment.

Singh, a school bus driver in Rockville, Md., says colleagues, supervisors and students taunted him for 13 years because of his turban and long beard.

Children - Co-workers - Words - Taliban - Sikh

Children and co-workers alike threw words like “terrorist,” “al-Qaida” and “Taliban” at the 45-year-old Sikh man, according to a complaint filed by Singh.

One former colleague asked him, “How did they let you back in the country? Osama bin Laden was killed,” after the U.S. announced the terrorist’s death. The students he picked up often joked about him kidnapping them, killing them and blowing the bus up, according to a complaint he filed three years ago.

Montgomery - County - Public - Schools - District

Now, the Montgomery County Public Schools district has agreed to work with Singh and the Sikh Coalition to create training programs fostering safer and more inclusive workplace environments for Sikhs and other minorities.

“He was targeted for being brown, for having a turban and beard and identifiable articles of faith,” said Amrith Kaur, legal director for the Sikh Coalition, a New York City-based civil rights advocacy organization that represented Singh. “The work environment was so hostile for him that even when he complained, formally and informally, and notified the school, they only addressed the individual act. So (Singh) kept dealing with daily harassment, even as the perpetrator would change.”

Singh - Claim - Discrimination - School - District

In 2016, Singh filed a claim of religious and racial discrimination against the school district with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, noting 21 separate incidents he says he formally reported to school officials in a five-year period.

On Tuesday (May 28), attorneys for the district and officials from the Sikh Coalition and Public Justice, who worked together to represent Singh, announced a settlement agreement.

Singh - Settlement - School - District - Welcoming

Singh said he hopes the settlement will make the school district more welcoming to...
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