On Thursday, several of us Mutineers spoke to an AP reporter about a story in Utah last week — about a girl in middle school in Utah who got suspended from her school for violating dress code, after getting her nose pierced. She and her family said she did it to get in touch with her Indian cultural identity — she had the piercing done on Diwali just a couple of weeks ago. The school, however, had a strict “ear pierces only” policy, and was only willing to allow her to have a “transparent” stud in her nose, not the more obviously Indian nose ring she wore to school initially.
Here is the AP story that resulted. It’s been printed in a fair number of newspapers around the country. The reporter quotes Abhi, Sandhya, and myself. But something goes wrong here:
“I wanted to feel more closer to my family in India because I really love my family,” said Suzannah, who was born in Bountiful. Her father was born in India as a member of the Sikh religion.
“I just thought it would be OK to let her embrace her heritage and her culture,” said Suzannah’s mother, Shirley Pabla, a Mormon born in nearby Salt Lake City. “I didn’t know it would be such a big deal.”
It shouldn’t have been, said Suzannah’s father, Amardeep Singh, a Sikh who was raised in the United States and works as an English professor at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. “It’s true that the nose ring is mainly a cultural thing for most Indians,” Singh said. “Even if it is just culture, culture matters. And her right to express or explore it seems to me at least as important as her right to express her religious identity.” (link)
Um, wait a minute. Did I read that right? Take a look at it again: “…said Suzannah’s father, Amardeep Singh, a Sikh who was raised in the United States…”
[UPDATE: The online version of the article has been corrected.]
This is a really bizarre and unfortunate error. Just to be clear, I have one kid, and he’s three years old. I am annoyed on my own behalf, but I also feel bad for the Pablas. (Suzannah has a dad, who is a practicing Sikh. It just so happens that most of the coverage of this story in the local Utah newspapers doesn’t mention his name: see the Salt Lake Tribune, for example)
When I spoke to the reporter who authored this story, he was 100% clear that I was in no way related to the Pablas. Somewhere between that conversation and the story that has now run in 200+ newspapers around the country, that important fact fell out. I don’t know who’s responsible for the error — it appears an editor might have come up with this.
In the end, it’s not really that big a deal; the only people who will really think anything is amiss are people who know the Pablas and people who know me. Still, maybe the moral here is to JUST SAY NO when reporters call you for a quote for a story that doesn’t really involve you directly.
Anyway, what do people think about the story itself? Should schools with strict dress code policies make an exception to accommodate nose rings for Indian students on cultural grounds?