NJ Sikh education bill passes with unanimous 75-0 vote

Community News

The Sikh community in New Jersey earned a victory in June end with the passage of a Sikh education bill in the General Assembly. 

Bill AR-172 passed with a unanimous vote of 75-0, having garnered the support of over 30 legislators before it came to a vote. It calls for the incorporation of Sikh instruction in school curricula state-wide. 

For members of the Sikh Youth Alliance (SYA), which played a key role in drafting and introducing the legislation, this bill is one element of a larger movement of Sikh advocacy. 

“It was introduced in January, [and] even before it was passed … we had already started speaking with school boards with more than good intentions … to try to help make these changes in the curricula or in the school systems,” said Jaspreet Singh, Community Director of SYA. 

“So having this bill passed already is going to help us even more to kind of encourage more school districts to jump on board,” he continued. 

Education is one of the SYA’s primary focuses, according to Bhupindar Singh, Outreach Lead of SYA. 

“Sikhs have been part of U.S. history for the past close [to] 220, 230 years, [and] they have made substantial contributions in the economic, political, cultural, and societal aspects of U.S. history,” he said. “But … when it comes to education and educating the people about what Sikhism and Sikh culture, history, religion, and identity is all about—that’s where we saw there was a certain lack of intervention.” 

This bill, which follows a 2022 law that mandates the inclusion of Asian American and Pacific Islander history in New Jersey school curricula, hopes to make that intervention in classrooms across the state. 

“Every township … [is] independent to choose what level of intervention they want to make into their curriculum,” Bhupindar said. 

“So it’s not a one-size-fits-all situation, but it has to be customized according to every single town, whichever of them is going to be interested to include the Sikhism curriculum into the social studies aspect, although through the legislation, we requested to have one chapter to be included from grade K to grade 12,” he continued. 

While the bill has passed in the General Assembly, a vote on its counterpart SR-108 in the Senate is still pending. The Senate is currently in recess, but the SYA is hopeful about its prospects and expects it to be passed by the end of the year, Bhupindar said.