Sikh pupil again suspended over Kara bangle

A Sikh pupil who has refused to stop wearing a religious bangle to school has been suspended for a second time.

Sarika Singh, 14, has refused to remove the silver bangle, or Kara, which she regards as a sign of her faith.

Aberdare Girls’ School, in South Wales, said the bangle broke its code of conduct. Pupils are allowed to wear only a wrist watch and one pair of plain metal stud earrings. It added that the rules had been in place for many years and had been set up to ensure equality.

Sarika is the only Sikh at the school. Her mother, Sanita Singh, 38, has taken legal advice and plans to challenge the school’s decision.

Mrs Singh, her daughter, and a representative from the Valleys Race Equality Council, a self-styled charitable voluntary organisation, attended a meeting at the school yesterday with the head teacher, Jane Rosser.

Wayne Lee, a spokesman for the council, confirmed that the pupil had been excluded from school again.

“Sarika is very upset and wants to go back into school. She is a good student and she wants to see her friends like any other 14-year-old.”

Sarika was taken out of her classes and taught separately for nine weeks pending the outcome of an appeal. She was excluded this month when she continued to ignore the ban.

Her mother said: “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.”

Sarika, from Cwmbach, near Aberdare, said: “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.”

The governors rejected the girl’s request to wear the bangle after examining the uniform policy and human rights legislation.

The school said it would not comment until it had told Mrs Singh of the latest suspension in writing.

Liberty, the human rights group, which is providing legal representation for Mrs Singh, said the law lords had ruled that Sikh pupils could wear items representing their faith, including a turban.

Anna Fairclough, Liberty’s legal officer, said: “Legal precedents established 25 years ago make clear she should be allowed to wear the Kara.”

A spokesman for the Welsh Assembly said rules on uniform were a matter for schools’ governing bodies, but issues such as equality and health and safety should be considered. The spokesman added: “Whether a school uniform policy breaches the Race Relations Act 1976 is a matter for the courts.”

The Valleys Race Equality Council, whose director is Ron Davies, the former Welsh Secretary, was set up 10 years ago with the aim of working towards “eliminating racial discrimination”.

Mr Davies has twice resigned from political office after speculation about his private life.

He left the Labour cabinet in 1998 after a “moment of madness” involving two men on Clapham Common, south London. He denied the incident had anything to do with sex.

He won a Welsh Assembly seat in 1999 but stood down before the elections in 2003 after a newspaper claimed he had been visiting a cruising spot near a motorway layby.

Mr Davies said he was actually badger-watching.

He resigned from the Labour Party in 2004, citing its stance on Iraq as one of his reasons.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)
Telegraph, UK
Nov. 14, 2007
Richard Savill

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This post was last updated: Wednesday, November 14, 2007 at 5:45 AM, Central European Time (CET)