Over the past several years, a number of Muslim students and their families have challenged uniform guidelines in British schools on the grounds that they contradict their religious believes.
A six-year-old lawsuit was the first to catch public intention when a Luton-area school prohibited a student from wearing traditional Muslim gown in class. Initially the family prevailed but later the decision was overturned by a court of appeals.
Current Government guidance on uniforms says that schools should “act reasonably” in accommodating various beliefs relating to clothes, hair and religious artifacts.
The guidelines, however, also leave the final authority with the head teacher, allowing them to limit religious expression of their students if doing so protects the rest of the students or can be considered unsafe.
Two years ago the family first lodged a complaint with another private school governors when they banned hijab. When the governors declined to reverse the ban, the family pulled their daughter out of the school and filed a legal challenge in the High Court. The student had been attending St. Cyprian since that time.
According to Head of St. Cyprian Kate Magliocco the problem arose when the girl reached teenage. In that age Muslim females are required to begin covering themselves in the presence of males outside their family.
“The decision not to allow her to wear a headscarf was taken by the governing body,” she added.
The family’s first appeal to the High Court was rejected last year, and the subsequent application is not scheduled to be heard until next month.
Meanwhile, the family’s son continued to attend St. Cyprian, but the female student had not returned to class.