NRI PULSE NEWS DESK
ATLANTA, GA: The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia and the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. have reached a settlement agreement with DeKalb County (GA) School District to resolve the Department’s investigation into allegations of religious and national origin harassment of a Sikh middle school student.
A press release issued by the US Attorney’s Office for Northern District of GA said the Counsel for the Sikh Coalition filed the complaint with the Department on behalf of the Student, alleging that he had been repeatedly targeted with verbal and physical harassment because of his Sikh faith. The alleged harassment included claims that a peer had tried to cut the Student’s hair in violation of his religion; that the Student was called “Aladdin” because he wore a turban; that the Student had been told by a peer to “go back to his country”; and that the harassment culminated in a physical altercation with another student.
The complaint alleged that the school district failed to respond appropriately to numerous incidents, that disciplinary measures had been ineffective in ending the harassment, and that the Student feared continued harassment. The school district denied the allegations but agreed to work cooperatively with the Department to resolve the complaint and protect the Student. The Department has authority to investigate and resolve complaints of religious and national origin harassment through its enforcement of Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The settlement agreement, which will be in effect until the end of the 2014‑2015 school year, requires the school district to work with a consultant to develop and implement anti‑harassment training that addresses religious and national origin bias at both the Student’s middle and high school. The agreement also requires the district to immediately implement a safety plan for the Student that will ensure that the Student is safe when he is at school and should incidents of harassment occur, that the district responds quickly and effectively to address the incident. In order to prepare for the Student’s transition to high school, the agreement also requires the school district to meet with the student, his family, and administrators from his middle and high school to identify key school personnel who can support the Student should any incidents of harassment occur at his new school.
“Every student should be able to attend school without fear of being harassed and bullied because of his skin color or religious beliefs,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “I am encouraged by DeKalb County’s willingness to take immediate steps to ensure that students attending DeKalb County schools are free of this type of harassment and bullying.”
In Washington D.C., Jocelyn Samuel, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division said, “Students of all faiths must be protected from harassment and other forms of discrimination. We commend the district for stepping forward and putting student safety first. We are encouraged by the district’s resolve to support and provide anti-harassment training on issues facing students from the Sikh, Muslim, Arab American and South Asian communities.”
The enforcement of Title IV is a top priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt.
Assistant United States Attorney Aileen Bell Hughes is representing the United States for the Northern District of Georgia in this matter.