August is back to school season and Sikh students globally are preparing to go back to middle school and high school. One of the challenges faced by many Sikh students during the school year is bullying at school. The aim of this article is to educate middle and high school students about how to handle bullying proactively and have a positive outcome/resolution. The following process is just one approach to resolving bullying. There are many other approaches that are effective, and the author acknowledges that each Sikh student that experiences bullying needs to resolve the incident on a case by case basis. The author is not an expert in this area and is only sharing this process to help other Sikh students find a place to start to act when they face bullying in their schools.
There are five steps to this process:
Record the entire event: Once the incident occurs, open up your computer or take out a pen and piece of paper. Document the entire event from the moment thee incident occurred to the end of the incident. The big areas to mention are the name of the person(s) who were involved, what they said, what you said in response to their remarks (if you did say anything,) whether someone intervened to stop the bullying, and what next steps you would like to take to prevent a similar incident from happening. Recording the entire event allows you to have a physical form of documentation that acts as a memory aid when you need to explain what happened to your parents or other trusted persons.
Tell a trusted adult, friend, teacher, parent, or school official: After documenting the incident (or even before, depending on what makes you feel safest and most comfortable), reach out to someone you trust in your life. Whether it be your parents, a teacher at school, a close friend, or a school official; it is crucial that you have someone who has your back during this process. Tell this individual what you experienced and ask for their support. Experiencing bullying as a young person is challenging and having someone to lean on makes all the difference in the world. You are not alone and there are people in your life who are there to support you through the ups and downs of life.
Resolve the situation with third party intervention: After telling someone what happened, reach out to your school officials. Usually, middle and high schools have a Dean of Students or a school administrator that handles conflicts such as incidents of bullying. Set up an appointment with the Dean of Students, bring your copy of the written documentation of the incident, and talk about what happened. Ask the Dean what next steps you need to take or if he/she should intervene on your behalf so that appropriate disciplinary action can occur.
Educate your peers: As a preventative measure, take the time to either educate your peers about Sikhi yourself or to have a Sikh community member help you out in the process. A basic level slide presentation on PowerPoint or Google Slides that is concise, clear and to the point and which takes about 10-15 minutes to go through tends to get the message across. During the 9th grade, I made a ten-slide presentation about Sikhism which I presented to my AP Human Geography Class. It was short and to the point, and I have been asked to come back to present in not just the AP class but also to the World Geography Classes every year since! The point here is that if you take the time to reach out to the school you go to and ask if you or a community member can give a short presentation about Sikhism, your school may respond positively to your initiative!
Forgive the person(s) who bullied you*: In the Kal Jug age we live in, it is very easy to hold strong grudges against those who have harmed us. However, it is not easy to forgive the people who treat us poorly. Whether it is indirect forgiveness via an Ardaas or talking to the person(s) and telling them that you forgive them, forgiveness is one step to take towards the healing process.
*This step is on your own terms*
Additional Resources: If you need more help, the following links can guide you to some resources. This is not a comprehensive list of resources.
The Sikh Coalition- https://www.sikhcoalition.org/
Sikh Helpline Australia-https://www.sikhhelpline.com.au/
Sikh Family Center- http://sikhfamilycenter.org/
The World Sikh Organization of Canada-http://www.worldsikh.org/
Sikh Helpline, UK- http://sikhhelpline.com/