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UNC Charlotte updates policy to allow Sikh students to wear kirpan on campus

The change comes almost two months after a video was posted online showing a student who was handcuffed for carrying the ceremonial dagger, an article of faith.
A traditional kirpan
A traditional kirpan on a belt.AAron Ontiveroz / Denver Post via Getty Images file

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte announced this week that it would allow Sikh students to wear a kirpan on campus, a religious article.

The change comes about two months after a video was posted online showing a student who was handcuffed for carrying the ceremonial dagger.

The school’s policy will allow students to wear kirpans on campus as long as the blade length is under 3 inches and is “worn close to the body in a sheath at all times.” A statement released Thursday, signed by Chancellor Sharon L. Gaber and Chief Diversity Officer Brandon L. Wolfe said the ruling was effective immediately.

“The Office of Diversity and Inclusion, with support from Institutional Integrity, also conducted additional awareness training this week with our police department and will continue its work to expand our cultural education and training opportunities for all of campus,” the statement said.

The university also said other religious accommodations, including a request to wear a larger kirpan, can be made to the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX and evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

“Over the past several weeks, we have engaged in dialogue with representatives from the local and global Sikh communities about how we could modify University policies to honor the tenets of religious freedom while protecting the safety of our campus,” the statement said.

The university thanked Sikh leaders, including nonprofit organizations The Sikh Coalition and the Global Sikh Council, who provided expertise and perspective to help with the policy change.

A video of the student being handcuffed was posted on the Twitter account @thatsamaan in September, and its user identified himself as the student in question. The post was widely shared on Twitter and Instagram. NBC News was unable to independently verify the Twitter account.

“I wasn’t going to post this, but I don’t think I will receive any support from @unccharlotte,” he tweeted along with the video. “I was told someone called 911 and reported me, and I got cuffed for ‘resisting’ because I refused to let the officer take my kirpan out of the miyaan.”

The student tweeted that he was given his kirpan back after the incident.

Baptized Sikhs are required to carry or maintain the five articles of the Sikh faith: kesh (uncut hair), kara (steel bracelet), kanga (small wooden comb), kachera (undershorts) and a kirpan (resembling a knife or sword).

The policy changes went into effect nearly two months after the school issued an apology and a second update was posted to announce additional actions to prevent similar issues in the future.

On Sept. 29, the university’s second update to the incident shared a list of planned actions, including providing support and resources to the individuals affected by the event, changing the school’s policy and providing additional education and training.