A student in Auburn, Wash., has been granted permission to carry a knife at school because it is part of his religion.
One of the most prominent traditional elements of the Sikh faith is the carrying of a Kirpan, a sword or dagger.
Several weeks ago, a Sikh family approached Gildo Rey Elementary school and notified the school that their young son would be carrying a Kirpan every day.
The Kirpan, which is considered an instrument of social justice, must be carried at all times; the concept of the Kirpan is taught to children at an early age.
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“People will even wear it in the shower,” said Jaswinder Singh, spokesman for the Gurudwara Sikh Center of Seattle. “It’s kind of hard for others to understand.”
“For the people who are formally initiated to the Kirpan, it’s very near and dear,” said Singh.
A volunteer from a different school, however, expressed considerably less enthusiasm for the idea of a student carrying a knife.
“There’s no way I’d go back until the knife was gone,” said Shelby, who asked that her last name not be used.
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“They can’t take that thing into an airport. TSA would be all over it. Why is a school any different?” she added.
District administrators are citing state and federal guidelines that allow certain exceptions to Washington’s “zero tolerance” for weapons policy.
In fact, as King 5 reports, administrators say that there are plenty of Sikhs, both students and staff, who have carried Kirpans to school for years without incident.
In this particular case, the knife is to be kept under the child’s clothes at all times.
Auburn Assistant Superintendent of Schools Ryan Foster said that “the knife can’t come out. It can’t be shown around.”
“That allows them to express their religion without jeopardizing anyone’s feeling of safety,” said Foster. If there are any problems, we will take it to the family, but we don’t expect any.”