A Michigan school district has decided to permit male Sikh students to carry a small ceremonial dagger mandated by their faith.
In December, a fourth-grade boy at a Plymouth-Canton School District elementary school outside Detroit was found with a kirpan, a symbol of male Sikhs’ commitment to fight evil.
After learning about the dagger, many parents voiced their concerns to the school board, which instituted a ban. The board then overturned that rule, issuing a statement to parents detailing the conditions in which a student would be allowed to wear a kirpan.
The kirpan must be sewn inside a sheath so it cannot be removed, the blade must not be more than two and one-fourth inches, and the blade must be dull. The kirpan cannot be visible in any way.
“While our school district is committed to providing a safe learning environment for all of our students, we must also balance the right of students to express and practice their religion,” the note to parents asserted. “In light of the strict scrutiny standard applied by Michigan courts in determining whether an individual’s right to freely exercise his or her religion has been violated, the district will amend its blanket restriction against wearing the kirpan in school.”
School district officials met with the Sikh community at the Sikh religion center in Canton to learn about the faith.
“I’m confident we got a good plan for the community,” said district spokesman Frank Ruggirello, Jr. “I think we found a happy medium.”