Press Release

New Report: Back to School Includes Bias-Based Harassment of Asian and Sikh Students in NYC

Image by AALDEF

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) and The Sikh Coalition released their third report in five years today documenting bias-based harassment of Asian American students in New York City public schools. The new report, “One Step Forward, Half a Step Back,” reveals that the city’s 2008 bias-based harassment measure, Chancellor’s Regulation A-832, has not yet substantially diminished harassment faced by Asian American students in city public schools.

AALDEF and The Sikh Coalition have surveyed city students to evaluate Chancellor’s Regulation A-832 since it was implemented five years ago as a response to several high-profile harassment incidents of Sikh students. On paper the city’s school bullying prevention regulation is generally strong. It provides clear guidance on defining, responding, tracking, and ultimately addressing bias-based harassment. However as today’s report and AALDEF’s and the Coalition’s 2009 survey report of students and 2011 survey report of teachers makes clear, there are significant gaps in the regulation’s implementation.

“Five years after the implementation of bias-based harassment legislation in New York City, reported harassment of Asian American students remains high,” says Khin Mai Aung, Educational Equity Director at AALDEF. “Regulation A-832 is a strong step forward. The problem lies in lack of thorough implementation of key procedures — including staff training and documented follow-ups to reported incidents – that are the very teeth of the regulation. Asian Americans are the fastest growing population in New York City, and we must renew our commitment to preventing bias-based harassment from threatening their education.”

One significant gap area highlighted by the report is the city’s refusal to publish the data it collects on school bullying incidents throughout the city. While the regulation mandates collection of such data, it does not require its publication.

“Mayor Bloomberg and the Department of Education seem to love publishing data on every aspect of city school performance with the notable exception of school bullying,” said Amardeep Singh, Program Director of The Sikh Coalition. “In this vacuum, our small community-based organizations are forced to publish survey reports to monitor the city’s compliance with its own mandates. This is unacceptable. The city has five years of data on school bullying now. It should publish it yearly so that we can all play a part in diagnosing the problem, solving it, and holding each other collectively responsible for our results.”

Today’s report analyzes the responses of 163 Asian American students in New York City, surveyed at after-school programs, youth leadership meetings, and places of worship. The results capture the gap between the promise public schools have made to dramatically decrease bias-based harassment and the day-to-day reality for Asian American students.

Most troubling, the percentage of Asian American students who reported incidents of harassment was at 50%. In addition, only 16% of survey respondents who reported bullying to their schools received a written report from their school, as required by the regulation. Less than half of the bullying victims surveyed reported that their school met the regulation’s requirement of parental notification of bullying incidents.

“I have both seen and experienced bullying in my school,” said Pawanpreet Singh, a Junior at DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx and a student leader at the Junior Sikh Coalition, a youth empowerment group for young Sikhs. “Teachers and students too often don’t know there are rules against bullying or don’t care. The adults in our lives need to create a better environment for students so that we can focus on our studies rather than worrying about the bully down the hall.”

While pointing out gap areas, the report also makes clear that the city’s school bullying prevention regulation has had success in making the issue of bias-based harassment more visible. Almost two-thirds of students reported seeing the regulation-required “Respect for All” (RFA) posters in schools. This is a significant increase from the 27% of students who reported seeing these posters during the organizations’ 2009 survey of students. Similarly, while it is troubling that parents are notified of bullying incidents less than half the time, this is still double the number of students who reported parental notification during the 2009 survey.

The report offers The Sikh Coalition and AALDEF’s recommendations to the NYC Department of Education, including required publication of yearly data on harassment incidents, trainings for all staff on regulation procedures such as restorative justice methods, and full compliance with the city’s bullying prevention regulation. AALDEF and The Sikh Coalition will continue to work with educators and policymakers in rectifying these shortcomings and combating bias-based harassment for the city’s growing Asian American student population.

Download the report »



The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), founded in 1974, is a national organization that protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans. By combining litigation, advocacy, education, and organizing, AALDEF works with Asian American communities across the country to secure human rights for all.

Sikh Coalition

Sikh Coalition is the nation’s largest Sikh American civil rights organization.