The Tennessee State Board of Education has issued new social studies standards that include educating students about Sikhism, the world’s fifth largest religion and the only major faith not previously included in the curriculum.
Advocates praised the move as a positive step toward combating ignorance, hatred and violence against the Sikh community. The Sikh Coalition, an ally of Americans United, had requested the inclusion of Sikhism in the curriculum last year but was denied. This year, their request was met with approval from the board.
“This is a good step forward,” Rajdeep Singh Jolly, interim managing director of programs at the Sikh Coalition, told NBC News. “In the post-9/11 environment, Sikhs have experienced school bullying, discrimination in the workplace and hate crimes because of the way they look and because of ignorance of who we are and what we believe.”
Approximately 67 percent of Sikh children reported that they have been targeted for bullying at their school because of their religious beliefs, according to a 2014 Sikh Coalition study.
Recently, there have been other steps to recognize America’s religious diversity. In January, the U.S. Army approved beard, turban and other religious garb accommodations after a Sikh soldier sued for his right to keep his beard and turban for religious purposes. The New York Police Department in December allowed a similar accommodation, and said Sikh officers may wear turbans while working.