AUBURN, Wash. — Like all religions, the Sikh faith is steeped in tradition. One of the most revered is the carrying of a Kirpan, a sword or dagger, at all times.
“People will even wear it in the shower. It’s kind of hard for others to understand,” said Jaswinder Singh, spokesman for the Gurudwara Sikh Center of Seattle.
The concept of the Kirpan is taught to children at an early age. The dagger is considered an instrument of social justice.
“For the people who are formally initiated to the Kirpan, it’s very near and dear,” said Singh.
But is it appropriate to bring to school?
A few weeks ago at Auburn’s Gildo Rey Elementary, a Sikh family approached the school telling them their little boy would be carrying a Kirpan every day.
That didn’t sit well with some.
One school volunteer named Shelby, who asked her last name not be used, said respecting religion goes too far if it compromises student safety.
“There’s no way I’d go back until the knife was gone,” she said.
Shelby does not volunteer at Gildo Rey.
“They can’t take that thing into the airport. TSA would be all over it. Why is a school any different?” she asked.
District administrators are citing state and federal guidelines that allow certain exceptions to Washington’s “zero tolerance” for weapons policy.
They say there are plenty of Sikhs, both students and staff, who have carried Kirpans to school for years without incident.
In this case, the knife is to be kept under the child’s clothes at all times.
“The knife can’t come out. It can’t be shown around. It needs to be underneath their clothing,” said Auburn Assistant Superintendent of Schools Ryan Foster. “That allows them to express their religion without jeopardizing anyone’s feeling of safety. If there are any problems, we will take it to the family, but we don’t expect any.”