Tuesday, 25 December 2012

London School in Court Over Hijab Ban

A GREEK Orthodox school is being taken to the High Court for banning a Muslim pupil from wearing a headscarf.

The nine-year-old girl's parents were so incensed at the decision they have pulled her out of St Cyprian's Greek Orthodox Primary Academy, in Thornton Heath.

Now they have applied to the High Court in an attempt to force the school – the only one of its kind in the country – to reverse its ban on their daughter wearing a hijab.

The parents believe it would be a sin for her head to be uncovered because she has reached puberty and is in the presence of male teachers.

Head teacher Kate Magliocco said the uniform policy was made clear to the parents when the girl arrived in Year 3.

It was not until she moved into Year 5 in September that they wanted their daughter to start wearing a hijab, a traditional headscarf worn by Muslim women which represents the Islamic principle of modesty.

Her parents complained to the governing body, which upheld the ban with the support of the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain.

Mrs Magliocco said: "The school is being taken to the High Court by parents of a Muslim girl.
"They believe that, because she is nine, she has reached puberty and it would be a sin for her not to be covered because the school has male teachers.

"The decision not to allow her to wear a headscarf was taken by the governing body. The school has a very particular uniform policy which is shared with parents and, as head, I must follow the plan.

"The pupil in question came to us from a private school. Her parents actively chose us and, before she arrived, we held a meeting which included details of the uniform plan. We are the only Greek Orthodox Primary School in the whole country. The parents actively sought our school. They must have done so with their eyes open."

The girl's parents pulled their daughter out of St Cyprian's, which this week came top of Croydon's primary school league table, in September.

She is now dual-rolled at All Saints CofE Primary School, in Upper Norwood.

Her parents want her to return to St Cyprian's as her brother still attends the school.

The family have submitted a fresh application to have the issue heard at the High Court after their first attempt was rejected. The matter is due to be considered in February.

Mrs Magliocco said the girl had otherwise observed all of the school's Greek Orthodox practices.

She said: "At the heart of this is a girl who has been unable to return to school. They are a really nice family and it's a regrettable situation for both sides. If it does go to court then it cannot be a positive thing."

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain said it would not be "appropriate" to comment.

St Cyprian's admits 52 pupils each year. While children from other religions are eligible, the admissions policy only mentions Catholic and other Christian faiths.

The school claims to "respect the religious beliefs and practice of all staff, pupils and parents". Its mission statement says the school is "committed to combating racism" and promoting "good relations between people of different ethnic origins".

It adds: "We recognise and celebrate the fact that a significant percentage of our children are from ethnic minority groups".

There is no mention of a ban on headscarves in the uniform policy on the school’s website.

Girls are required to wear a dark blue coat, an optional blazer, a skirt, a white blouse, a navy blue pullover and navy blue or white socks and black shoes.

Shuiab Yusaf, trustee of Croydon Mosque & Islamic Centre, urged the school to reconsider the ban.

He said: "We encourage schools to be a little less strict and allow Muslim girls to wear headscarves if that is what they want to do," he said.

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