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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 November 2007, 15:11 GMT
Sikh pupil's exclusion sparks row
Sarika Singh
Sarika Singh refuses to remove her Kara, a religious symbol
A leading member of the Sikh community and a south Wales AM have spoken in support of a 14-year-old excluded from school for wearing a religious bangle.

Sarika Singh has been temporarily excluded after Aberdare Girls School said her bangle or Kara broke its code of conduct, aimed at ensuring equality.

The secretary of Sikh Federation UK said the Kara was an article of faith and the school was breaking the law.

Leanne Wood AM said she was "surprised" by the school's decision.

Governors said they had made their decision after significant study of the legal background.

Sarika Singh was excluded for a day on Monday, and on Tuesday her mother said she was told she had been excluded for a fixed period.

Sarika has said of wearing the bangle: "It's very important to me, it constantly reminds me to do good and not to do bad, especially with my hands."

Sarika Singh and her Kara
Children are at school for education and education only. But what is wrong with wearing a bangle?
Kayleigh Findlay

Jagtar Singh from the Sikh Federation UK claimed the school was breaching the 1976 Race Relations Act.

He said: "The department for education and schools in England have said that if a head teacher or governing body were to deny a Sikh child one of their articles of faith such as the bangle then they would be breaking the law.

"If you are a practising Sikh, you have no choice, you have to have the Kara. It is the one symbol that virtually every single Sikh wears."

Sarika's mother Sinita Singh has said the teenager would remove the bangle for gym classes, or wood and metalwork, for safety reasons.

She has spoken of her intention to take legal advice, saying: "She's not asking for anything big and flashy, she's not making a big fuss, she just wants a reminder of her religion."

Aberdare Girls School
Aberdare Girls School has a strict uniforms policy

Governors rejected Sarika's request to wear the bangle after a "significant period of research", examining the uniform policy and human rights legislation in detail.

When she continued to wear the bangle to classes, Sarika was excluded by head teacher Jane Rosser.

Ms Rosser said the school's strict code of conduct had been in place for many years and had been established to ensure equality.

She said: "The code clearly states the only two forms of jewellery that girls are allowed to wear in school is a wrist watch and one pair of plain metal stud earrings."

Ian Blake, chair of the school's governing body said the school continually reviewed the code to reflect the population of the school and its surrounding community.

"The fact remains the code has to be upheld and we made our decision only after a significant period of research into previous cases across the UK, interrogation of the law, including human rights and race relations legislation and seeking legal guidance from the Local Education Authority," he said.

'Discrimination issues'

South Wales Central AM Leanne Wood called for the assembly governnment to issue clear guidance for schools about pupils wearing religious symbols.

She said: "I'm surprised and disappointed at the decision of Aberdare Girl's School to exclude Sarika, and I've yet to be convinced that they've got a good reason for doing so."

A Welsh Assembly Government spokesperson said there was no legislation in place specifically covering school uniforms, and whether a school's policy unlawfully breaches the Race Relations Act 1976 was a matter for the courts.

The spokesperson added: "School uniform and appearance issues including the wearing of jewellery, are local matters for individual schools to decide upon.

"The Welsh Assembly Government will shortly be issuing guidance on a range of issues associated with school uniform policies and the wearing of school uniform including equality, health and safety and discrimination issues."

The Kara is one of the the five K's of the Sikh religion

Should pupils be banned from wearing religious symbols?
Not sure
11353 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

Sikh pupil excluded over bangle
06 Nov 07 |  South East Wales


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