Bullying has long been a problem for school-age children in the U.S., but the problem can be especially pervasive for religious minorities. In the wake of 9/11, a combination of xenophobia and ignorance has made Sikh populations in many areas the subject of discrimination, verbal harassment, and even physical assault. In fact, over half of young men who maintain patka or turban report bullying as a result of their faith.
The Signs of Bullying
Children get into all sorts of altercations on the playground, and resolving minor disputes is a perfectly normal and healthy part of social development. When arguments start to become physically or verbally aggressive, this begins to push into the realm of bullying. Repeated harassment over a period of time is the hallmark sign that a child is being bullied.
Parents or teachers should be on the lookout for signs of bullying and address the issue as early as possible. The evidence isn’t always obvious, especially in cases of physical harassment. Authority figures should be on the lookout for telltale signs such as:
● Bruises, cuts, or other mysterious injuries
● Lost or destroyed property or clothing, especially turbans
● Faking sickness to get out of school
● Changes in eating habits
● Insomnia and nightmares
● Sudden changes in social behavior
● Lower grades
Bullying isn’t just limited to the school yard. Kids can also experience harassment at home, at the park, or just about anywhere. Adults can be victims too, particularly those in hostile work environments.
Short and Long-Term Consequences
Bullying can lead to short-term changes in sleep schedule and unhealthy eating patterns. If allowed to continue over time, this can affect a child’s growth, leading to stunted mental and physical development. Bullying also has a long-term impact, if it distracts children and increases the risk of truancy, leading to poor grades. Once a child falls behind in school, it can be difficult to catch up. This affects not only options for higher education, but also future job offers. Bullied children have also been shown to have an increased risk of developing substance abuse problems or engaging in antisocial behavior.
What You Can Do to Help
Parents, educators, and other authorities have a duty to children of all races and religion to provide a safe, healthy, and fun learning environment. If children feel threatened or intimidated at school, they won’t be able to reach their full potential. A collective effort is needed if bullying is to be stomped out of our society. It’s crucial that schools acknowledge and address bullying issues through educational initiatives, while parents should encourage an open dialogue with their children.
Bullying has long been a problem in U.S. schools, and unfortunately, many Sikh children have experienced discrimination first-hand. Bullying can have a lasting negative impact on a child’s development, and so it’s essential that adults address issues at home and in school as soon as possible. Teaching children about diversity and religion around the world can help to build greater understanding and compassion and reduce the incidence of bullying.