The “temporary” exclusion of 14-year-old Sikh girl Sarika Singh from her school in Aberdare, South Wales, for refusing to take off her
(iron bangle) seems to have all the makings of another row over the wearing of religious symbols in schools.
Aberdare Girls School has charged Sarika with failing to accept its uniform guidelines and the rules of its governing body.
Head teacher Jane Rosser told
a press note had been issued and she had “nothing further to add”. The note quoted Rosser as saying: “We have a strict code of conduct that has been in place for years. A copy of this is given to all the girls before they are even pupils and also at the start of every new term. We use the code to ensure equality between all pupils.”
The governing body, which considered an appeal from Sarika’s family, said “the code clearly states what jewellery is permitted (a wrist watch and a pair of plain metal stud earrings)”.
Mike Keating, Director of Education and Lifelong Learning at Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, said: “The decision was only made after a prolonged process of checking the law, guidelines and legal position.”
The matter could lead to a legal dispute if not resolved by mutual discussion. Sarika’s mother Sinita said her daughter was ready to remove the kada for wood, metalwork and gym classes for safety reasons but “it is not jewellery, it is a symbol of our belief”. Sarika too said the kada was important to her as “it reminds me always to do good”.
Inderjit Singh, head of the Network of Sikh Organisations, said “the exclusion order is an extraordinary ban because it goes against the law of the land”. He recalled the 1982 case of a student, Lee, who was banned by his school headmaster from wearing a turban. The case had gone to the House of Lords, which had ruled that the turban was a religious symbol and hence, he was allowed to wear it.
This dispute is the latest in the series. Last year, Shabina Begum, 15, lost her battle in the House of Lords to wear a jilbab. Earlier this year, a 12-year-old failed to gain the right to wear a full-face veil at a Buckinghamshire school. And in June, Lydia Playfoot, 16, lost a high court battle to be allowed to wear a Christian “purity” ring as a symbol of her chastity.