On June 8, 2015, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and the Sikh Coalition held a Bullying Prevention Sikh Google Hangout. As part of her capstone project in the E3! Ambassadors Program, Naureen Singh organized the discussion to educate Sikh American youth, parents, and community organizers about the resources available from the federal government to combat bullying.
Many Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students face bullying and harassment based on their appearance, including many Sikh turbaned youth. According to a 2014 Sikh Coalition study, nearly 70 percent of turbaned Sikh youth in Fresno, California reported experiencing bullying and harassment. In addition, a 2012 study found that half of the 163 Asian American New York City public school students surveyed reported experiencing some kind of bias-based harassment.
Numbers like these are simply unacceptable. As someone who understands firsthand what it feels like to be ostracized or shamed because of skin color, sexual orientation, or any other number of perceived differences, I’ve been working passionately with my fellow Commissioners and the Initiative staff to make sure our schools are a place where all students feel safe in order to have access to the education they deserve.
During the Google Hangout, I joined Gurjot Kaur from the Sikh Coalition to share the obstacles Sikh Americans face when dealing with bullying, to highlight some of their personal stories, and to discuss effective measures to respond to bullying when it occurs. Federal resources like StopBullying.gov serve as a valuable tool where readers can find information on how to prevent bullying such as campaigns and toolkits. In addition, the AAPI Bullying Prevention Task Force was created to help ensure that AAPIs are aware of the federal resources available to them and that the federal government is equipped to respond to the unique needs of our community. To that end, the Task Force is leading bullying prevention listening sessions around the country to learn firsthand about the experiences of AAPI students.
Furthermore, we discussed ways in which peers and adults alike can create a safe and supportive space to give students who are bullied the courage to speak up. We discussed the importance of reporting incidences of bullying to the schools, and how to file complaints with the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights when schools fail to respond appropriately. Complaints filed with the federal government have the potential to result in resolution agreements that mandate changes for entire school districts. Above all, speakers highlighted that bullying can never be justified and that, in fact, our differences are something to celebrate.
This Google Hangout closed out the capstone projects series for 2015, and we look forward to re-launching the E3! Ambassadors Program at the fifth annual White House AAPI Youth Forum on July 9. The E3! Ambassadors program is an innovative way for young leaders to learn about federal resources available around issues that directly affect them, and to share those resources with their campuses and communities. It provides a unique platform for them to use their personal stories to affect change. I heartily congratulate Naureen for making this Google Hangout such a huge success. Stay tuned for more information on the 2015-2016 E3! Ambassador program application process and ways to impact your own local community.
Maulik Pancholy is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.