An attempt to inform parents of children at a southern suburbs primary school why Sikh students are allowed to carry a ceremonial dagger has led to a public backlash.
The school has allowed one student to carry a kirpan, a small ceremonial blade which initiated Sikhs are expected to wear close to their bodies day and night.
Outraged parents and community members posted more than 400 comments on a Facebook community page after the school said it would hold a P&C meeting to allow a representative of the Sikh community to talk to concerned parents.
Kirpans are one of five articles of faith that Sikhs must carry, including the kesh (uncut hair), kanga (comb), kara (bracelet) and kachehra (special undergarment).
A parent who spoke to The West Australian said she was concerned that children could get hurt if another student grabbed the knife.
“They’re not allowed to have peanut butter on a sandwich because that’s dangerous, but they’re letting a kid take a dagger to school,” she said.
Anup Singh, the priest for the Sikh Gurdwara in Bayswater, said it was essential for an initiated Sikh, man, woman or child, to wear their kirpan under their shirt.
Education Department acting deputy director general for schools Lindsay Hale said public schools considered the needs of all their students and were respectful of diverse religious beliefs and practices.
He said the carrying of a kirpan at school would be considered on a case by case basis, but the department was not aware of any adverse incidents involving a kirpan at its schools.
“Like any object a student brings to school, the kirpan must be deemed safe,” he said.
“My understanding is the student involved has acted responsibly at all times while carrying the kirpan.
“Police issue cards permitting Sikh students to carry the kirpan so it is not a banned or controlled weapon. Like many everyday objects, it is not dangerous if carried correctly.
“We understand some parents may have concerns, and we would encourage them to clarify the matter with their children’s school principals.”
Mr Hale said that if a principal became aware that a student or teacher was carrying a kirpan with a sharp edge or it was used to cause harm or fear, they should refer the matter to police.
“Under the Department of Education’s Equal Opportunity, Discrimination and Harassment policy, principals must provide school leadership that promotes equity and diversity in teaching and learning programs, and within their school communities,” he said.