Sikh Children Permitted To Bring Carry Knives in School

800px-Kirpan_smallLast week, a Washington state school distract formalized a policy that was already in effect: Sikh children, who are required by their religion to carry kirpans, ceremonial daggers, are allowed to do so, despite zero tolerance rules that have seen children punished for accidentally bringing Swiss Army knives to school, or for being in possession of a knife to cut up an apple (not to even mention the really crazy stuff).

This article, and all articles on this site, are © 2014 by Bill Bickel unless otherwise noted.

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Published in: on October 30, 2014 at 6:31 am  Comments (14)  

14 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. My feelings on the topic weren’t covered in your poll.

    I have no problem with swiss army knives and paring knives and the like in a school. But Kirpans are different to me; the reason for carrying one is ostensibly because Sikhs are called on “to defend themselves and others from oppression.” (according to Wikipedia)

    That leads me to believe that the Kirpan could conceivably be used for its intended purpose on school grounds, and that seems like a bridge I wouldn’t want to cross.

  2. Would the religious requirement be satisfied by carrying a soft rubber replica dagger?

    • From what I can see from a quick glance around some “What is Sikhism about” websites, no, a rubber dagger is NOT a kirpan. However, a kirpan need not be sharpened. I mean, it CAN be, and many Sikhs believe that, ideally, a kirpan should be an actual knife that can be used to defend the innocent if some psycho attempts to mug someone near you (it’s a terrible sin to use a kirpan OFFENSIVELY, but it can be used to DEFEND people), but the basic requirement can be satisfied by an unsharpened kirpan-shaped piece of metal.

      But the shape of it is going to necessarily be at least pointy.

      In various places, people have made compromises such as requiring kirpans to be glued into their sheaths, requiring them to be smaller than six inches, requiring them to be unsharpened, and the like. Different Sikhs feel differently about them. And, for instance, you might feel that, okay, a kid has to glue his kirpan into the sheath, but that’s real insulting to ask of an adult.

      A rubber kirpan, though, is Just Not Right.

      So: ideally, an adult Sikh wears an actual knife that they’re trained in fighting with, and is alert to danger and to protect the innocent around them at all times — Sikhs are supposed to literally be Social Justice Warriors. But, as a compromise, some, but not all, people feel that it can be downgraded all the way to carrying a tiny vaguely-knife-shaped chunk of metal that’s glued into a case.

  3. Very good point, LtPowers.

    (but for the record, I think Option #1 on the poll does cover that)

    • No, most policies treat Swiss army knives as ‘potential weapons’, and I do not support banning them.

      • H*ll, a piece of paper is a “potential weapon” … to a hemophiliac.

  4. If you subscribe to the beliefs of the Swiss army, you should be able to carry a Swiss army knife.

  5. The standard kid’s kirpan looks a lot more like a butter knife than a dagger.

    I wish I could say whether that was relevant. I’m not at all sure it is.

    The whole zero tolerance thing just gets under my skin.

  6. My daughter was on the colorguard, and therefore took a saber to school.

    The only person she ever hurt with it was herself.

    The reason for “zero tolerance” policies is to ensure that everyone gets the same punishment for breaking the rules. Before zero tolerance, you tended to get athletic kids and the children of important people barely or not punished for serious offenses, while minorities and children of less-important people getting heavy penalties… sometimes of the exact same act. Yes, this keeps administrators from setting punishments to match the offenses… that’s the only way of making sure that administrators don’t abuse their discretion… don’t give them any discretion to abuse.

    • I’ve never heard that justification for zero-tolerance rules before, and it doesn’t make any sense. There are ways to standardize punishments without necessarily making those punishments draconian for minor offenses.

      • Of course it makes sense. It may not be the solution you like, but it makes sense. If you have a problem where different people are getting different punishments for the same things, you make all the punishments the same.
        It’s the same logic that gives you mandatory minimum sentencing.

  7. None of the above.

  8. How do schools in India handle this question?

  9. A sharp pencil is a weapon. Don’t need those at school.


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