To foster cultural understanding, NYC schools unveil lessons on Sikhism

Just about every culture in the world is represented in New York City. But so many people are still misunderstood, which can cause confrontations or worse. The city is trying to fix the problems, starting in the classroom.

College student Satleen Kaur is a Sikh.

"I faced a lot of bullying and like people picking on my hair," Kaur said.

She is hoping younger generations who observe her religion won't experience bullying in school the way she did.

Now, students across the city will be learning about Sikhism. [Note: We often hear Sikh pronounced as "seek" but the correct pronunciation is "sick."]

Pritpal Singh, the senior policy advisor for the nonprofit United Sikhs, said that 70 percent of Americans the group surveyed do not recognize Sikhs.

"They have no idea who we are, what our origins are, where we come from or what country we come from," Singh said. "The fact that we come from India is not understood."

Members of the city's Department of Education and United Sikhs came together in Jamaica, Queens, to celebrate a new curriculum. Fifth and sixth graders in all five boroughs will now be learning about Sikhism. Sikh children are bullied in school at more than double the national rate, according to the city.

"At all times you can look around, some little girl, some little boy is staring at you," high school student Ikroop Singh, who is Sikh, said. "So it feels weird."

This curriculum was formally announced Friday, but it actually first started in some city classrooms in September 2016. At the end of this past school year, Sikhism was being taught in 70 percent of fifth- and sixth-grade classrooms. The DOE will continue to roll out the curriculum to the remaining schools over the next several years.