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Monday, 13 December, 1999, 15:23 GMT
Court action over school trousers ban

Claire and Jo Hale Claire Hale has been campaigning on behalf of daughter Jo for two years

Legal action is being taken against a school which banned a 14-year-old girl from wearing trousers.

The Equal Opportunities Commission has asked Gateshead County Court to issue proceedings against Whickham School, Gateshead, claiming it has sexually discriminated against Jo Hale.

Jo's mother, Professor Claire Hale, has been fighting school rules which say her daughter must wear a skirt.

She says this disadvantages girls on the grounds of cost, comfort, freedom of movement and protection against assault.

She first challenged the policy in the summer of 1997, but has had no success so far.

The school's governors have refused to make an exception, saying other parents appear happy with the dress code.

Many complaints

Earlier this year, the Equal Opportunities Commission agreed to back Prof Hale's campaign.

On Monday, the commission's chair Julie Mellor said it received many complaints every year from girls at schools which took a similar view.

"We advise them to try to resolve the matter with their school amicably and in most cases that works. Unfortunately, in this case it didn't", she said.

"However at present, there is no case law on dress restrictions in schools and we hope Jo's case will clarify the legal position once and for all for everyone concerned - schools, governors, pupils and parents."

'It is sad'

Prof Hale, 47, of Bensham, Gateshead, said: "I think, in a sense, it is very sad it is having to go to court but I'm confident we will win.

"We are only a few weeks off the year 2000 and you would think the school would agree to be a little more up-to-date with its policy.

"It is sad that the girls are now going to have another winter with cold legs and I cannot understand the position of the governors."

Chair of the school's governors Tom Hopper said: "This is an on-going campaign by one parent. We knew it would be going to litigation and it would not be right to comment further at this stage."

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See also:
01 Nov 99 |  Education
School trousers row looks set for court
31 Aug 99 |  UK
Girl fights to wear the trousers
07 Jun 99 |  Education
Mother threatens legal action over uniform
16 Mar 99 |  Education
Pupils suspended over short skirts
04 Nov 99 |  UK
Who's wearing the trousers?
04 Nov 99 |  UK
Skirt talks come apart at seams

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