ORMISTON College is at the centre of what could become a landmark case over whether a school has the right to deny a student admission because his turban does not fit in with the uniform requirements.
A Sikh family, who cannot be identified due to a suppression order, has lodged a complaint with Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination Commission alleging the private school refused to admit their 12-year-old son unless he removed his turban and cut his hair.
The complaint, which was submitted last February, claims the boy was discriminated against because the school placed conditions on his enrolment that he could not comply with because of his religion.
Ormiston College headmaster Brett Webster has defended the school’s stance, telling The Redland Times the family was not discriminated against because of their religion.
“We always have and will continue to enrol people from different religious and cultural backgrounds; that’s not the question,” he said.
“The question is should the school, should every organisation, have to change their policies, have to change their rules, every time someone comes along with a different set of beliefs?”
“People can choose to make it a religious issue, for us it’s certainly not, it’s a uniform issue, it’s a school policy issue.”
The family’s lawyer, Caxton Legal Centre director Scott McDougall, disagreed.
“It’s quite clearly an issue of religion if the strict application of the rule means they can’t follow their religious beliefs,” he said.
The two parties were unable to resolve the issue at a meeting and Mr McDougall said he expected the case to be heard by the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal before September.
The family has now moved from the Redlands so the boy could attend a different private school.
Ormiston College, an independent and non-denominational school, has previously allowed a Sikh student to wear a turban as part of his uniform.
The boy attended the senior school during the late 1990s when previous headmaster David Hosking was in charge.
Mr Webster was unsure whether the uniform rules had been tightened since the other boy graduated or whether an exception had been made for him, but said as headmaster he had a duty to uphold the rules that were in place when he joined the school in 2006.
“I think it’s a matter of being fair and being consistent – treating people well but recognising the fact that rules exist for a reason,” he said. [Link]
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