Washington: A school in Michigan`s Canton township has barred students from bringing a `kirpan` to the premises after a fourth grader was found carrying the religious symbol and parents of other students objected to it.
The move has troubled the small Sikh community in the township near Detroit, prompting them to launch a public awareness campaign to make people realise that `kirpan` is only a religious symbol that is completely non-threatening.
The school authorities decided to ban the carrying of kirpan within the school premises late last month after the fourth grader Sikh student was found with a three-to-five inch kirpan.
Following a legal review, the Plymouth-Canton Community Schools district decided to ban it as it violated local, state and federal policies against carrying weapons or items that look like weapons to school, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Similar disputes have cropped up in other parts of the US as well and the incident has concerned Sikh parents and other community leaders, who argue that kirpan symbolises their commitment to fighting evils, such as greed, and has no assault value.
"It`s not an assault weapon," Tejkiran Singh, 47, of Canton, a Sikh community leader was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
"It`s so small, so blunt... The whole purpose of wearing it is that it`s a reminder of our spirituality," he said.
Sikhs of the area have organised a public forum today to address concerns the city people may have about the growing Sikh community, the daily said.
There are now three Sikh gurdwaras in Plymouth and Canton.
"It`s to inform people about this great world religion, which many don`t know anything about," said Steve Spreader, director of programmes for the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, which is co-sponsoring the forum with other groups.
It all started early December when the young Sikh student, whose identity has not been revealed, and another student at Bentley Elementary were roughhousing on the playground, said Frank Ruggirello, Plymouth-Canton spokesman.
According to the daily, the second student felt the kirpan and asked what it was. The student who was wearing the 3 to 5 inch item around his neck explained he received it when he was baptised. School officials examined the item, saw it did not have any sharp edges and gave it back to the student, said Kenneth Jacobs, deputy superintendent of the district.
"It does not have sharp edges. It is a religious artefact," the spokesman said.
At the request of the school authorities and parents, the student`s family agreed to remove the kirpan until Plymouth-Canton Community Schools officials figure out the best way - legally and otherwise - to handle it.
But the school after following a legal review decided to bar it.