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Thursday, February 07, 2008

High court backs school's ban on jewellery pending battle over Sikh bangle

A 14-year-old Sikh girl cannot wear a religious wrist bangle to school pending a full legal battle over her cultural and religious rights, the High Court ruled today.
Sarika Watkins-Singh was excluded after she refused to remove the Kara bangle and is now due to fight in the courts to establish a permanent right to continue wearing it in class.
Backed by her mother, Sanita, 38, she says it is an important symbol of her culture and Sikh faith.
She wants to return to Aberdare Girls School in south Wales and continue her education pending the hearing.
The school governors say the bangle cannot be worn because of its "no jewellery" policy.
Today her lawyers came to London's High Court, suggesting that she should be allowed to wear it on her right wrist under a long-sleeved jumper until there was a final ruling in her application for judicial review, which could take several months.
Helen Mountfield, appearing for Sarika, argued that she was unfairly being made to choose between her education and her faith.
But Mr Justice Harrison accepted the argument of the school governors that, to allow Sarika to be made an exception to school uniform policy even for a short period would cause disruption among the 600 girls at the school.
Jonathan Auburn, for the school, said there would be the risk of pupils "turning up at the school displaying jewellery saying that it was allowed".
The judge ruled: "Whilst I accept there will be detriment to the claimant if she is not able to wear the Kara in the interim, it does not seem to me that is anything like as significant as the detriment to the school if she were allowed to wear it."
The Punjabi Welsh girl from Cwmbach, near Aberdare, said the small, plain steel bangle was "a constant reminder to do good".
Ms Mountfield had told the judge that Sarika was allowed to wear it for about two years before a PE teacher asked her to take it off in April last year.
"She is 14, now approaching the age at which she is required to choose her GCSE subjects.
"She cares about her education and is a child with aspirations to have a professional career.
"She will suffer harm if she cannot attend school in a way that is consistent with her culture and religion, and is forced to choose between something which is central to her ethnic and religious identity and her education."
Ms Mountfield added that Sarika could not hide the Kara in a bag, which the school was suggesting as a compromise.
The point of the Kara was that it was a symbol of a faith with a history of martyrdom that required its adherents to visibly stand up for what they believed, she told the judge.
Recently the school head, Jane Rosser, said that wearing the Kara was against regulations because it was a piece of jewellery.
Sarika's family contend it was not jewellery as it was worn for religious reasons and not for decoration.
The only two forms of jewellery that girls are allowed to wear in school are a wrist watch and one pair of plain metal stud earrings.
In the forthcoming High Court hearing, Sarika's lawyers will argue that the school's stance violates race relations laws, the 2006 Equality Act and the 1998 Human Rights Act.
Her mother says she has the support of several local politicians and the Sikh Federation UK.
The teenager would remove the bangle for gym classes, or wood and metalwork, for safety reasons.
The mother said recently: "We feel very strongly that Sarika has a right to manifest her religion. She is not asking for anything big and flashy, she is not making a big fuss, she just wants a reminder of her religion."
Her daughter's interest in the Sikh faith intensified after the family visited India, including the Golden Temple in Amritsar, two years ago.
"I don't believe in putting pressure on children to follow a certain religion, but Sarika decided for herself that she wanted to be a practising Sikh," Mrs Singh, a mother-of-two, added.
Sarika said: "I am a Sikh and it is very important for me to wear the Kara because it is a symbol of my faith and a constant reminder that I should only do good work, and never do anything bad, with my hands.
"It is a comfort to me and a confidence booster when I am doing my exams. The reason I am fighting for my right to wear the Kara is because I want to stand up for the right of all the other Sikh pupils across the country to wear their Karas in school."
also reported on http://ethnicconfusionbritain.blogware.com/blog ,www.ethnicconfusionbritain.co.uk

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