Sikh boy allowed to have small, concealed ceremonial dagger at school

Not everybody happy with district's decision to let Sikh boy have a small ceremonial dagger to Gildo Rey Elementary

Weeks ago a Sikh family sat with school officials at Gildo Rey Elementary School to let them know that their son would henceforth be carrying to school a small, ceremonial dagger — a Kirpan.

The Kirpan, a symbol to Sikhs of social justice, is fundamental to the observance of the Sikh faith.

The boy’s parents agreed that the knife would be kept under his clothing at all times.

District and school officials then checked all the rules at the state and federal levels having anything to do with the observance of religious rituals. What they found were certain exceptions to Washington’s zero tolerance for weapons policy, so they said … OK.

That was fine with many, but to one person, a school volunteer, it set a dangerous precedent. The woman went public with her displeasure, telling KING 5 News that respecting religion goes too far when it compromises student safety.

Kip Herren, superintendent of the Auburn School District, explained the district’s position.

“We have had a lot of growth in the Sikh population over the last decade, and most orthodox Sikhs probably have a Kirpan on them, and it’s never been a problem. They sew them to the inside of their clothing so they are not visible.”

What happened in this instance, Herren said, was that a family approached the principal at Gildo Rey to let her know that their child had gone through a religious rite, and that he needed to have the Kirpan on him.

“We checked with OSPI — the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction — and with state federal guidelines and recommendations regarding weapons and so forth,” Herren said.

“The Kirpan is not a weapon,” Herren said. “In this case, it is a 3-inch, dull, blunt ornamental and deeply-religious symbol of the Sikh religion, less dangerous than school scissors. The Sikh family was amendable to the assurance that the symbol will never be visible so as not to create a disruption for those who do not have the sensitivity or awareness of this individual religious practice.”