Bangles and fighting battles you can win

A South Welsh Sikh girl: Sarika Singh, was forbidden to wear a bangle called a “Kara” which is important to their religious faith. This episode ended up in the 14 year old girl being excluded from Aberdare Girl’s School for breaching the uniform code which the head teacher said “…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.”

The chair of the board of governors supported the head teacher saying: “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”The row then went to the High Court in London and the judge: Mr Justice Stephen Silber has now found in favour of Ms. Singh. He rejected the school’s claim (rather weak this one) that the steel bangle could be seen as a “symbol of affluence” pointing out that many watches were more expensive. He went on to say: “In this case there is very clear evidence it was not a piece of jewellery but to Sarika was, and remains, one of the defining focal symbols of being a Sikh.” He also denied the school leave to appeal.

Although I am in favour of discipline in schools (which is a bit like being in favour of being nice or other pointless platitudes): I find the school’s decision a little odd. Presumably they were afraid of dozens of different items of jewellery being worn. Also in these cases there is sometimes a history of dispute between the children or parents and the school. However, to go this far and then lose is a bit humiliating for the school.

I remember that my school had a reputation for relaxed discipline (all things being relative in a country Proddy grammar in the 1980s) but having no major discipline problems. A new head arrived when I was either 5th or lower 6th form and tightened up the rules markedly. This had the result of making overall discipline much worse. Sometimes maybe it is better to only fight those battles important and worth the fighting. Was it worth fighting over a metal bangle worn by a Sikh 14 year old and how much did this episode cost?