Sikh American Student in Alabama Allowed to Return to School with Both Turban and Hair Intact

May 15, 2007

Author: Staff Writer

Source: SALDEF

Washington D.C. – May 15, 2007: Last week, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), the oldest Sikh American civil rights and advocacy organization in the country, successfully represented a 15 year old Alabama high school student who was allowed to return to school after being kicked out of Good Hope High School for keeping his hair uncut and wearing his patka – a religiously mandated Sikh head covering.

Earlier this Spring, while researching religion on the internet, Mr. Tommy DeForest came across the Sikh faith and immediately felt an affinity for the faith. After reading more about the religion, Mr. DeForest started to keep his hair uncut and wear a make-shift head covering. Upon trying to attend classes at Good Hope High School, Mr. DeForest was turned away at the campus gates and told that he would not be allowed on campus with his long hair. Mr DeForest was also subjected to repeated disciplinary punishment and finally suspended for his resolve to freely practice his faith.

A meeting was subsequently arranged between the DeForest Family and the school administration. At this meeting, Principal Anita Kilpatrich and the Superintendent for Education of Cullman County Hank Allen, adamantly supported their decision to deny Mr. DeForest from practicing his faith freely while attending public school. Additionally at this meeting, the suspension was extended indefinitely – effectively denying Mr. DeForest the right to public education simply due to his religious affiliation and forcing him to chose between his faith and an education.