Viral video of ‘terrorist’ taunts on Gwinnett school bus points to larger problems

Aasees Kaur is a student at Georgia State University and a member of the Sikh Advocacy Association of Georgia – a youth group committed to working on advocacy initiatives.

She is also the sister of a Sikh boy who was part of a landmark DeKalb County bullying settlement late last year.

Today, she writes about a 45-second video shot on a Gwinnett school bus.  The viral video shows a girl yelling “terrorist” at the boy, who responds by saying the kids are being racist. He curses at them.

The students attend Duluth Middle School and have been disciplined, according to Gwinnett Schools.

Here is the video, followed by Kaur’s essay:

By Aasees Kaur

The viral video of a Sikh boy being called a “terrorist” on a Gwinnett County school bus should be another wake-up call to school officials in Atlanta and across the nation. Bullying remains a serious problem, but it remains to be seen whether it will receive a serious response from parents, teachers, and school officials.

As a Sikh American, this issue is personal to me. Like the boy in the video, my younger brother wears a turban. For devout Sikhs, the turban is a declaration of Sikh identity, representing a commitment to the Sikh religious ideals of equality, justice, and love. For many, the turban reminds them of otherness, making it an easy target for mockery and even violence.

Bullying has taken a toll on my family.  My brother was verbally abused in classrooms, in cafeterias during recess – and, yes, even on school buses.  He was called “Osama” and “terrorist” and told to “go back to your country.”

His country is this country, which we’re all proud to call home. He also endured physical assaults – a broken nose and swollen jaw requiring two surgeries. In one incident, a student assaulted my brother’s identity by cutting his hair, which devout Sikhs are required to keep uncut.

My brother and the boy in the video are not alone. According to Sikh Coalition surveys, a majority of Sikh students are bullied and harassed in our nation’s schools – up to 67 percent in some cities. But it is not just my community. Students nationwide are being bullied because of their race, religion, nationality, gender, body type, disability, and sexual orientation.

It is important for adults to remember that bullying takes many forms.  When students intentionally exclude victims from school activities and leave them socially isolated, this is bullying.

When students leave the school campus and target victims on school buses, this is bullying. The school bus is often a torment zone, where schools should be responsible for the safety of their students, but often instead turn the other way and chalk it up to “troublemaking.”

When students use social media and mobile apps to target victims, this is bullying. Indeed, “cyber bullying” is uniquely problematic because it leaves victims vulnerable to slander while bullies remain anonymous.

So where do we go from here?

The real issue is how we, as a society, are dealing with our understanding of minority communities, especially when their customs, beliefs, and experiences may not match our own. We need our school systems to partner more strongly with underrepresented communities to make sure that the needs of all our students are being met.

For example, I wish history teachers would explain that Sikhs have been in the United States for more than 100 years, English teachers would add more courses on world literature, and social studies teachers focused more on current events, like movements to win equal rights for LGBT communities and people with disabilities.

Parents also need to do their part, by acting like responsible adults.  I have a hard time believing 12-year-olds spontaneously call each other “Osama” and “faggot” and tell people like my brother to “go back to your country” without parental influence. I shudder to think what kind of conversations these bullies’ parents are having at home about people who do not look or live like them.

Above all, we need to be proactive. We have to be willing to adjust our schools’ anti-bullying rules if they are not working. Just last year, in response to a federal investigation into my brother’s bullying complaints, the DeKalb County School District adopted new model policies and procedures to protect students from bullying. This was a critical first step, and school districts throughout Georgia – and around the nation – should take a look at these model policies and work to plug any gaps.

I will never forget what my brother went through, and my heart aches for the child in the video, but the fight against bullying does not end when this issue fades from the headlines.  Let’s work together to ensure that all of our children are safe and enjoy the only childhood they will ever have.

 

Reader Comments 0

37 comments
John Sean
John Sean

The problem is not the kids. The problem is their parents. How could kids call some of their peers 'Osama' or 'Terrorist' unless their parents teach them (or at least openly display their biased racist views) at home? Clearly if parents think (as some appallingly even do so in these comments) that brown kids with turban are terrorists, their kids will think the same. As you sow so shall you reap. Fill your own heart with hatred and stupidity and your kids will inherit the same from you. Change yourself is you want the next generation to be smarter. Or at least learn to restrain your stupid lack of basic common sense. As for kids, the lesson is clear - you have to take the world as a clean slate and not just learn everything your parents do as smart or given. As for the kid who endured all this, he might yet come out stronger and wiser than most other kids (unless he gets attacked and killed by ignorant racists as they grow up)

ProHumanitate
ProHumanitate

Based on some comments here, I'm afraid many people may not have read @OriginalProf 's reply to a comment below.

Sikhs are not Muslim. They're a minority sect of Hinduism. 

Bernie31
Bernie31

All one needs to do is take a Look at the Blurred Faces on those making the taunts. They are only acting out what they have learned from Parents,Family & Friends. This is another example of the Old Hatred of the OLD THINKERS in ACTION. Those who are currently sharing the same OXYGEN as the rest of US. The Children and Grand Children of ole Jimmy Crow.

EdUktr
EdUktr

@Bernie31

The difference being, in the 'hood the Sikh boy might very well have ended up in a body bag instead. After being stripped of his valuables. 

Right Bernie?

eulb
eulb

@Bernie31 re: "All one needs to do is take a Look at the Blurred Faces on those making the taunts."
Bernie, I took a look.   Did you? I see a black male and white female simultaneously taunting their mutual victim.  The way I see it, the black boy and white girl are practically partners in their mutual goal of bullying the Sikh student.  
 

Ole Jim Crow would never permit such a collaborative relationship between a black boy and white girl in his family!  They are not Jim Crow's grandchildren.  This is not a Jim Crow event.


Kids of all races and backgrounds are expert at discerning even subtle differences and sensitive spots in their peers.  Bullies are expert at zapping them.   Ignorant bullies sling hurtful misinformation ("Terrorist!"). That's what happened here. 

It was bad and needs to be addressed honestly.  But it's pretty simple.  No need to conflate this incident with Jim Crow history. 

mensa_dropout
mensa_dropout

My heart breaks for that young man.  As a mommy, I am disgusted when my kids are excluded by mean kids.

Lee_CPA2?  You are a tool of the highest order.  I bet you threw rocks at buses when you were younger. 

Bernie31
Bernie31

@mensa_dropout  - Not only that, If Lee-CPA were around during the days of Jesus. You would hear his LOUD CHANT of " Crucify HIM!, Crucify Him, NOW!"  This is the kind of being we must understand and recognize with whom we are dealing with. An Old Thinker!  One that must depart from US, for America to become a Better place to Live. One whom the Spirit of America weeps for and wish for a quicker demise. One the Worms are tapping their foot for....Patiently. For the Feast to come. uh..huh.

eulb
eulb

The very last voice in the video says, "Hey, ___, stop being mean."

It's not the victim saying that.  It's someone else, and it's worth noting.  If it's a peer, it probably took some courage to speak up in that situation.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Oh good grief, overreact much?  So, kids are being kids, the sister (who is a member of a racist advocacy group) gets all bent out of shape, and the sikh boy calls his classmates  "mother f**kers".

It's good that these kids realize that 100% of the terroristic activities, (you know, flying planes into buildings full of people, cutting peoples heads off, strapping a bomb to their body and setting it off in a crowded bus, etc, etc, etc) in recent years were committed by middle eastern muslims who look just like this boy.

I hope school administrators diciplined the sikh boy for his cursing.  That is inappropriate in a civilized society.

eulb
eulb

@Lee_CPA2

@ Lee_CPA, I'm appalled by your comment.  Sounds like the bullies' perspective.  Hope you were kidding. 

Re: "kids are being kids".  Yes, that's exactly what was happening.  That doesn't excuse it.  Bullying behavior is predictable in groups of kids, especially when the grown-ups are absent.   Ever read Lord of the Flies?  William Golding nailed human behavior. 

 School buses are a prime place for bullies to pick on their targets. The driver cannot control the children's behavior or their mouths, so it's like there's no grown-ups around.  Perfect setting for Lord of the Flies behaviors to play out.

The Sikh boy's cursing language --  I'm not convinced he learned cursing at home.  Seems quite likely that he learned that stuff from peers at school and on the bus.  He was responding to his attackers using the kind of language they respect, but doing it in a sing-song, smiling way, trying to de-escalate the situation.  He could have cowered or ignored his taunters, but I doubt they would have worked better than the strategy he chose.  He will continue to face these same kids daily at school and on the bus and in the community.

Does anyone here have any helpful advice for this boy and similar victims?   What could/should he have done differently in this situation?

ConcernedDeKalbMom
ConcernedDeKalbMom

@Lee_CPA2 Umm…Oklahoma City? I wonder how much you resemble that particular terrorist? Or perhaps you don't think that counts because it's not recent enough? I can think of some folks who would disagree. 

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Lee_CPA2 

Sikhs are members of a religious minority group of India, a branch of Hinduism (nothing to do at all with Muslims), distinguishable to outsiders by the turbans the men wear to cover their uncut hear for religious reasons.  They wind their hair in the strip of cloth to form the turban. The advocacy group the sister belongs to is a religious, not a racial, organization.  Sikhs are often persecuted in their native country for being a minority sect of Hinduism, and the identifying marker of their identity is the turban worn by the men.


Why should this boy be scapegoated for a religious group he doesn't even belong to, for wearing a garment required by his religion? For that matter, why should he be scapegoated even if he was a devout Muslim?...although I don't think that Muslim male children wear turbans. 


And why are you defending the bullies?  That makes you one of them, really.

straker
straker

Because I was short, shy and stuttered, I was relentlessly bullied from the 1st grade to my last day of high school.


This was in the 40's and 50's.


Looks like things haven't changed much.

Bernie31
Bernie31

@straker  - Straker , you were not teased because of your Skin Color nor Religion. Your personal suffering as bad as it was, sadly. Your suffering was in No Way, comparable to the daily Indignity and Inhumanity of those who suffered at the hands of the Hateful & Evil inhabitants in this still pathetic and backwards thinking State. Please, you must recognize and understand the chasm of Difference is VAST in comparison.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Bernie31 @straker 

Bernie, I have to disagree. Straker was bullied as a child because of what he was--a short male who had a speech impediment. Children who are bullied because of their skin color or religion are bullied because of what they areIt feels the same to a child.

Bernie31
Bernie31

@OriginalProf @Bernie31 @straker  - My Bleeding Heart Friend never did that speech said he cannot Eat here, or go to the back of bus, or be terrorized by Men in sheets on Horseback. or beaten to pulp by a Racist Cop because of his speech impediment....DID HE?  Or tell him in order to go into the Fox Theater, he must sit in the Crows Nest...the very last two rows reserved jest fer people who look like me.


Forget buying popcorn and we are not going to mention a Bathroom Break! Hold it or leave it was the the standing order of the day. Have you even ever been up to the Crows nest at the Fox? I have....when you do let me know how well you can see...and the same dangerous stairs are still there on North Ave. Only then they were a Lot more UNSAFE than they are now.


I Refuse to this day to step Foot in that God awful place just because how e as Americans were Treated. did Strakers speech impediment prevent any such actions? I think NOT!


I remember going to the Rich's Department store downtown as child, being scolded by my Mom and told Not stop on the Bridge to ask for anything! Your kind is Not allowed!  Straker had no such Problem at all with any of these and MORE! He could go to Piedmont Park play and walk anytime. Those who look like ME...Fridays only!...No playing, sitting on the grass or Benches. I think its really funny that the end of the Peachtree Road Race ends at the only entrance of the park where people of color were only allowed to enter without arrest. as late as 1966!


I remember going to Chick-fil-la on Virginia Ave with My dad as a nine year old and to stand beside him as he was called a BOY and spoke down to like he was less than Human. Then threatened with a Call to Police, who showed up as we were getting into the car. All Dad wanted was to get his son a sandwich and shut him UP! ))


Now tell me again How these are similar in comparative events.


I think you need to rethink a Few things and get a grip on reality!


Some People have set of Brass ones, don't they? uh..huh.


And HECK No! every child knows the difference between Bullying and being Hated for your very being. The Problem is those who agree with you have not had such an experience to compare such erroneous and self righteous statements.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Bernie31 @OriginalProf @straker 

Bernie, I'm aware of the horrors of racism, although I've never experienced them personally. But those experiences  don't negate others' pain from being bullied for being themselves. It's not like there is a suffering-meter. Straker described being bullied for things he could not change--being a short male with the disability of stuttering, evidently all the way through high school. He has remembered this all his life from the 1940s (as you have the pains of childhood racism), so he must be retired by now. 


This reminds me of a time when I was teaching, and allowed my students to write a term paper on any subject they wanted, so long as it could be proved through library research. It was a racially mixed class.  One student wanted to "prove" that Jews had suffered more through history than blacks had. No, for it couldn't be "proved"...but also, I said, there's a point where the suffering is so great you just can't measure it.


The child being bullied and excluded for who he is, for something he cannot change, is hurt badly, whether bullied for his disability or his race or his religion. When it hurts all the way to the present, 70  years later, the cause doesn't seem to matter as much as the bullying.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Bernie31 @straker 

P.S.  " A Court in Ohio has held that a person who stutters is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In general, under the ADA, a person is considered to have a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Speaking is considered a 'major life activity' under the ADA."

http://www.ada-il.org/questions/q_stuttering.php

Bernie31
Bernie31

@OriginalProf @Bernie31 @straker  -Straker, I do not deny the great Pain and suffering you have endured. As great as it has been for you. I too know very well of the Pain caused by others. My opinion was that this kind of pain and suffering was altogether different as its intent and cause of action. I have made fun of you in the Past and now I must confront the pain of my own ignorance and insensitivity. Please forgive Me...I was not aware.

teachermom4
teachermom4

Shameful behavior. We are in the middle of studying the Holocaust in 5th grade, and one of the main themes we discuss is treating others with respect, regardless of how they may be different from ourselves. It is, even after 16 years in the teaching profession, beyond me how unthinkingly cruel children can be to one another. Hopefully someone (preferably the parent) is teaching the perpetrators why they are wrong to judge others by appearance.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@teachermom4


Not just children.  We lead by example, and often adults engage in behavior that is just as reprehensible.

Starik
Starik

Ignorance, to be expected in middle schoolers. Teach them that Salafism and Sikhism are very different, and that Georgia white people have a greater history of terrorism.

casey0888
casey0888

wow..abhorrent behaviors and language by them all.

EdUktr
EdUktr

Unfortunate, but it's not even remotely comparable to the ethnic blood-spilling which goes on daily in the countries of the Indian subcontinent.

In this case a spanking is in order—not national remorse.

meno
meno

@EdUktr So I guess, it would be not so bad to bully a local kid that is a refuge from some war torn place since such bullying would not even "remotely comparable" to the blood spilling of a war.  India, by the way, is just one country that is a sub-continent.  

Bernie31
Bernie31

@EdUktr  - Only You would make such an uninformed and Ignorant statement of UNTRUTHFULNESS.

EdUktr
EdUktr

@meno @EdUktr

There's a war going on in India? Are you confusing it with Indiana? (Is a war going on there?)

Invest in a world atlas.

Astropig
Astropig

Bad upbringing.The parents of this girl should be ashamed of her actions.

class80olddog
class80olddog

Hopefully this girl has been expelled - it is part of that discipline thingy.


What WAS the discipline given - and to whom?

GwinnettCounty
GwinnettCounty

If you would like to voice your concerns, I would encourage you to attend the local school council meeting coming up on Tuesday, March 10 at 8 am. The meetings are open to the public and its intended to be where parents and community can communicate with administration. The meeting is at DMS in the main office conference room.