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Fiery Today Show debate on whether kids should be allowed to take religious weapons to school

A fiery debate has erupted on the Today show about whether children should be able to take religious weapons to school after a teenager was stabbed with a kirpan in Sydney.

A teenage boy who nearly killed a classmate during a playground fight was legally allowed to carry the 'knife' he used in the attack on the school's grounds - because it's classified a 'religious weapon' by the Education Department. 

The 14-year-old boy allegedly stabbed another male student, 16, twice in the stomach with the miniature sword called a kirpan at Glenwood High School in Sydney's north-west on May 6. 

The 16-year-old boy was rushed to hospital while the other student, 14, was charged with two counts of wounding a person with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. 

He is on bail and is due back in court in July. Meanwhile, his alleged victim was only released to hospital on Monday, 11 days after the attack.

Students in New South Wales are legally allowed to carry a Kirpan if they are a baptised Sikh

The sword must be carried by baptised Sikhs at all times to remind them of their duty to 'uphold and defend the truth courageously' and is a weapon permitted on school grounds in NSW. 

The kirpan is specifically named as being one which is exempt from the NSW Education Department's ban on knifes as school.  

The policy states that students caught with other types of knifes face suspensions of up to 20 days and even being expelled. 

The Kirpan, which is shaped like a miniature sword, is a religious artefact which 'must always be carried... to remind him or her of their duty to uphold and defend the truth courageously'

It is not clear if students or their families are required to warn staff or the school when carrying such an item.

The kirpan, which looks like miniature sword and is generally kept in a holster, is considered one of the 'five k's' of Sikhism.  

The others are maintaining Kesh through uncut hair, wearing a Kara (steel bracelet), carrying a Kanga (a wooden comb) and wearing Kacchaera (cotton underwear).

A paper submitted by the Australian Sikh Association seeking an amendment to the Anti Discrimination (Religious Freedoms and Equality) Bill 2020 claimed Sikhs were often discriminated against for carrying a kirpan.

A boy allegedly stabbed at Glenwood High School on May 6 is yet to return to school. Pictured are police at the scene

It looks like a miniature steel or iron sword and is generally kept in a holster on a person's body, giving them easy access to the weapon should they need it

The Australian Sikh Association also claimed three 21-year-old Sikhs were discriminated against while attending an interfaith public event at NSW Parliament House in 2016.

They said the trio were refused entry due to carrying their Kirpans, as staff explained there was protocol in place which required any practicing Sikh to obtain prior approval to visit with the weapon.  

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she was shocked to learn the knives could students could take knives to school and said it didn't pass the 'common sense test'.

Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said she and Attorney-General Mark Speakman were urgently reviewing the operation of laws relating to children carrying knives for genuine religious reasons.

'Student and staff safety has to come first, and that's why I have asked for advice and I think we have to look at that exemption, and if there is more we need to do,' Ms Mitchell said. 

Daily Mail Australia has contacted the Department of Education for comment. 

Glenwood High School principal Sonja Anderson addressed the alleged incident in a letter sent home to parents last Friday, which was obtained by 2GB.   

Ms Anderson acknowledged the use of knives 'used as a weapon in a dangerous, violent or threatening way is never acceptable'.

But she added possession of a knife for genuine religious reasons is specified as a reasonable excuse under the The NSW Summary Offences Act.

'We are currently working with community representatives to discuss how best to enable students to meet aspects of their religious faith and, at the same time, ensure our schools remain a safe place for students and staff,' the letter states.

'Once we have discussed this issue further with the community representatives we will provide further guidance to NSW public schools.' 

The injured student is said to be progressing well and will be offered additional support before reintegrating into school. 

The NSW Department of Education's position on knives sparked outrage among 2GB breakfast host Ben Fordham and his listeners.

'I'm sorry but knives don't belong in schools,' he told listeners on Monday.

A boy, 14, was arrested at the school and has since charged with two counts of wounding a person with intent to cause grievous bodily harm

Ms Anderson acknowledged the use of knives 'used as a weapon in a dangerous, violent or threatening way is never acceptable'

'I don't care what your religion is. And the NSW Police and Department of Education should make this crystal clear.' 

Even New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian was surprised about the policy and will meet with the education minister to discuss potential changes.

'I was quite taken aback to learn that students can take knives to schools,' she told reporters on Monday.

'Students shouldn't be allowed to take knives to school under any circumstances and I think it doesn't pass the common sense test to have students taking weapons of any description to school.' 

'I'll talk to the Education Minister about it but my strong view is that no student should be allowed to take a weapon to school. Full stop.'  

The maximum penalty for carrying a knife without a reasonable excuse is a $5,500 fine or two years imprisonment.

A parent who knowingly authorises their child to carry a knife without a reasonable excuse also faces a $550 fine.

Possessing a knife for self defence purposes is not considered a 'reasonable excuse'.

Similar legislation offer Sikh students exemptions to carry kirpans on school grounds in Western Australia (Weapons Act 1999) and in Victoria (Control of Weapons Act 1990). 

Queensland's Weapons Act 1990 states the kirpan cannot be worn on school grounds for any reason, although they are allowed in public places.

Under laws in Tasmania and South Australia, baptised Sikhs are permitted to have kirpans in public. However, it is unclear whether the rules apply to school grounds.

The principal of Glenwood High School (pictured) told parents that a student being in possession of a knife for genuine religious reasons is specified as a reasonable excuse

The principal addressed the alleged incident in a letter (pictured) sent to parents on Friday


Sikhs must carry five articles of faith with them at all times as a reminder of their beliefs:

Kesh: Hair must never be cut, and it is kept wrapped in a turban.

Kanga: A comb is used to brush the hair twice a day and to help keep the turban neat.

Kara: The bracelet is worn on the right wrist and symbolizes restraint from evil deeds.

Kirpan: The small dagger is a symbol of courage and must never be used to attack, although it can be used for protection if other methods of defense have failed.

Kachehra: The undershorts remind Sikhs of their devotion to a faithful life. 

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