A school district in Washington State drew heavy criticism from parents after it ruled that one of its students could carry a dagger to school in the name of religious freedom. When Auburn School District had to decide whether to compromise with its students’ safety or allow one particular student his religious freedom, it decided to favor the latter and the decision did not go down very well with other students or their parents.
The case revolves around a young boy who attends Gildo Rey Elementary under Auburn School District. The unidentified boy, who belongs to the Sikh community, had his parents come in late October to inform school administrators that their son would be carrying the kirpan, a traditional Sikh dagger, to school on a daily basis. While seeking permission for the same, the boy’s parents informed the authorities that the kirpan is one of the five essential sacred objects required to be worn by adherents of Sikhism at all times.
Reportedly, the parents explained that the dagger is considered a tool for social justice and it is not used for violence under any circumstance.
“For the people who are formally initiated to the Kirpan, it’s very near and dear,” a spokesperson for the Gurudwara Sikh Center for Seattle told the media.
However, not everyone at the elementary school is comfortable with the district’s decision.
“There’s no way I’d go back until the knife was gone,” one school volunteer said. “They can’t take that thing into the airport. TSA would be all over it. Why is a school any different?”
Critics of such a façade argue that the kirpan is an outright violation of Washington State’s zero tolerance towards all weapons, irrespective of any religious requirement. Yet, Auburn School District administrators felt the kirpan fell under both state and federal exceptions of the policy and thus allowed the Sikh student to bring along a dagger to school every day.
According to Auburn Assistant Superintendent for Schools Ryan Foster, the student would not be allowed to show the knife to others or even bring it out from under his clothing as the district’s guidelines require him to keep it under his clothes at all times.
“That allows them to express their religion without jeopardizing anyone’s feeling of safety,” Foster said, “If there are any problems, we will take it to the family, but we don’t expect any.”
Foster said he is confident and optimistic about the district’s decision because the kirpan has been worn by several other students and staff members at Auburn for many years and no untoward incident has surfaced because of it yet.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia