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Sikhism among world religions added to Arizona school standards

Arizona is the eighth state to add Sikhism to its education standards, according to The Sikh Coalition.
Image: Sikhs gather for a parade
Participants gather for a parade to celebrate the US Independence Day on July 4, 2017 in Washington, DC.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images

Arizona has adopted new public school standards that includes education about various world religions, including Sikhism.

The Arizona State Board of Education voted 6-4 Monday to adopt new social sciences and history standards that would include information about world religions, including but not limited to “Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Shintoism, Sikhism, and Taoism.”

The new standards are slated to take effect next school year, according to a spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Education. Students in sixth grade and high school would be exposed to lessons involving those religions.

The Sikh Coalition, a nonprofit civil rights organization that had been advocating for the standards, hailed their adoption as a victory for combating bigotry and increasing religious literacy.

“We are thrilled that Arizona has taken this step as we continue our efforts to create Sikh awareness in our nation’s classrooms for generations to come,” Pritpal Kaur, the group’s education director, said in a statement.

A 2014 report from the The Sikh Coalition found that just more than 50 percent of surveyed Sikh students reported being bullied in school. One of the coalition’s current campaigns includes introducing Sikhism into state educational curriculums in hopes that understanding can curb bullying.

The Sikh Coalition said in a statement that eight states currently include Sikhism in their education standards: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, and Texas.

In Arizona, the state Board of Education adopts standards, which local education authorities then build specific curriculums and classes off of, according to the Department of Education spokesperson, which is independent of the state board.

“As a proud Arizonan and Sikh mother with children in the public school system, this is going to make a lasting difference in my sons’ lives,” Anjleen Kaur Gumer, a Sikh community leader in Arizona, said in a statement. “I’m so thankful for the Sikh Coalition’s tireless advocacy and support that was critical to making this possible.”

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CORRECTION (Oct. 24, 2018, 10:13 a.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misstated Pritpal Kaur’s title. She is the education director of The Sikh Coalition, not the executive director.