California,USA:-jurupa school board members on Monday, Nov. 19, discussed safety issues on campus, including a request by some Sikh students to bring ceremonial kirpans to school.
The Jurupa Unified School District board of education on Nov. 19 approved a new district policy that will allow Sikh students to wear a kirpan to school but with strict restrictions.
The vote was 4-1, with board member Brian Schafer casting the dissenting vote.
Under the new policy, parents agree to sign a statement that requires the kirpan — a daggerlike object that is a sacred article of faith — to be worn under clothing, to have the blade dulled, to be soldered or sewn into its sheath so it cannot be removed and to have a blade that is 2 1/2 inches or less.
Despite these restrictions, Schafer said that type of object does not belong on a school campus.
“My issue is safety, not that you’re going to deny someone’s religious freedom,” Schafer said.
But other board members insisted that the district had to respect the religious beliefs of the students.
“America was founded on freedom of religion,” said board president Sheryl Schmidt. “It’s not up to us to tell any religion what is right and wrong.”
Schafer has pushed for an open discussion of the issue of kirpans on school campuses since board members were advised in mid-August by Superintendent Elliott Duchon that he had been meeting privately with Sikh parents who wanted permission for their children to wear the kirpans to school.
The Inland area’s largest Sikh temple is located in Jurupa Valley. The kirpans are one of five sacred articles of faith that baptized Sikhs are required to wear at all times.
According to Duchon, the Sikh parents have agreed to solder or sew the kirpans into the sheath. Duchon also stressed that there never has been a complaint or violent incident involving a Sikh student carrying a kirpan in Jurupa schools.
Duchon and some board members consider the issue a matter of religious freedom.
But Schafer is adamant that student safety trumps religious freedom and that a dagger-like object should be not allowed on campus under any circumstances.