On his way home from school, Sanjeet had stopped by a local deli to grab a bite to eat when some boys came from behind and pulled off his dastaar. New York City Councilman Daniel Dromm, who was a teacher at the time, saw the incident and tried unsuccessfully to stop the perpetrators.
“I loved Sanjeet,” he told the Sikh News Network. “He was the kind of kid who liked to please teachers.”
Dromm was a teacher in Sanjeet’s school, more than 10 years ago, before 9/11. Back then, Sikh kids were teased just because they were different, he said. With a large population of Latinos, the city was experiencing an influx of South Asian immigrants. Sikh kids became targets of bias. It’s even worse now with the additional bias of turbans being mistakenly identified with the 9/11 perpetrators.
Dromm knew the Latino students who attacked Sanjeet. He reported them to the principal the next day. Their parents were brought in and the offenders were suspended.
“When that child had his turban pulled off, there was nothing to say that this was wrong,” said Dromm. One of the misguided thoughts is why not just take the turban off. They don’t understand that it is part of the religion.
“I recall wishing that we had a curriculum or reference to use as a teacher of how to deal with that.” Today, as councilman, it is still his dream.
Dromm’s district includes Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, LeFrak City, Corona, Rego Park, and Woodside, with a large population of Sikhs. He also is a member of the council’s education committee, which held a hearing last month to evaluate the New York City Department of Education’s efforts to combat bullying.