Why religious knives are being banned from NSW schools

Why religious knives are being banned from NSW schools

NSW students have been prohibited from carrying a knife while at school, even those worn for genuine religious reasons, under new rules introduced by the NSW Department of Education.

The ban, announced by the Department this week, follows an incident at Glenwood High School in Sydney's north-west where a 14-year-old boy allegedly stabbed another student with a knife that was meant to be used for religious purposes.

“Following a recent incident, the Department has now implemented a temporary ban on students, staff and visitors carrying any form of knife into government schools (including those carried for religious purposes),” read a statement from the school’s principal, Sonja Anderson.

“This temporary ban is to ensure the safety and well-being of students and staff at all of our schools”.

Anderson said the Department is currently working with a range of community stakeholders including religious organisations to develop a new policy “to enable students, where appropriate, to continue to express their faith, while still maintaining safety within the school context”.

“We request that parents and carers talk with their children to make sure they understand this change. Knives carried for religious purposes, including kirpans, will need to be kept at home for the foreseeable future”.

Currently, the possession of a knife for genuine religious reasons is specified as a reasonable excuse under The Summary Offences Act. However, the NSW Government is now legislating a fix to that loophole.

The ban, which took effect from Tuesday, covers all forms of knife including kirpans, which are a short, curved blade, worn (sometimes in miniature form) as one of the distinguishing signs of the Sikh faith.

The NSW Education Department spokesperson said the Department is working with school communities to ensure the ban is implemented and well understood, and that principals would be writing to their school communities about this.

"When parents and carers send their children to school they expect them to learn in safe and caring environment. We have a supreme duty to ensure the safety and well-being of students while they’re at school," the spokesperson told The Educator.

"We are currently working with community representatives and government agencies to discuss how best to support students meet the needs of their faith while adhering to school safety policies".