Before lifting the ban on wearing kirpan by Sikh students in private schools of the New South Wales (NSW) province of Australia, the State Education Department has sought feedback on proposed changes to the wearing of kirpan by Sikh students in the government schools for genuine religious purposes.
NSW enforced the ban after a bullying-victim 14-year-old boy allegedly used a kirpan to stab a 16-year-old at a Sydney school. The Sikh community is in talks with NSW education minister Sarah Mitchell to get the order withdrawn or ensure an amicable solution to the issue.
The NSW Gurdwara Group has worked closely with the Department of Education NSW (DoE) and other government agencies over the last few weeks. To develop a solution for Sikh students to wear Kirpan and maintain safety at schools, a proposal has been finalized.
“As you can appreciate, a lot of work has gone behind these efforts, including consultation with Australian and International Sikh bodies. The proposal has also been submitted to Sri Akal Takht Sahib for their concurrence”, said the Sikh group in a communiqué.
The communiqué reads, “As part of the process, the DoE is seeking feedback on the proposed changes through public consultation. Please refer to the link below to have your say: https://www.nsw.gov.au/have-your-say/changes-to-knives-schools-policy“
“It is very important for you to provide your valuable input to the feedback before 25/06/2021 and support the proposal. Refer to the following link for a supporting document https://bit.ly/3wEwVym….Please share this info with your friends & family,” it adds.
Following is the proposal:
What’s this about?
The NSW Department of Education has a strict policy specifying no weapons being allowed at school, in line with its legal obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 to eliminate or minimise risks to health and safety (so far as is reasonably practicable). Following the Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW), there has to date been a legal exemption for knives carried for religious purposes, including a Kirpan as carried by baptised Sikh students.
A Kirpan is a short sword or knife with a curved blade, worn as one of the five distinguishing articles of Sikh faith. Baptised Sikhs must wear a Kirpan closely on their person at all times.
Whilst a Kirpan is ceremonial in nature and not intended to be used as a weapon, it can have the potential to cause harm or injury, as identified in a recent serious incident at an NSW high school.
The Department has worked closely with community representatives and other government agencies to develop a solution for students that meets the needs of their faith while adhering to school safety policies.
The proposed approach involves establishing clear guidelines and parameters for how a Kirpan can be worn in schools by students and the school workforce. These guidelines will stipulate the Kirpan:
- is of small size, i.e. 8.5cm blade or less, and blade and handle combined to be 16.5cm or less;
- has a blunt blade and is secured so that it cannot be used, i.e., secured by a chain (that is soldered closed at the links) that restricts the blade from being removed or sewn into a sturdy fabric loop that is sewn to the Kirpan belt;
- must be concealed from view;
- must be removed and safely stored, or secured against the body, when undertaking physical activity such as sport; and
- Note that “secured against the body” means wrapped in sturdy fabric and secured within a sports band or leather belt that ensures it cannot slip out or cause injury to the wearer or another person.
- the student must verify, in a reasonable way, that these guidelines are being complied with when reasonably asked by the school. Any reasonable safety concerns will be discussed with the student and their parents or carers.
Have your say
Provide your feedback on this proposed change via email, as noted below.
As part of the review process, the Department will also consult with other relevant parties as deemed necessary throughout the course of the review.