Sikh student can wear religious bracelet, U.K. court rules
A Sikh teenager who refused to remove a religious bracelet to comply with her South Wales school's anti-jewelry policy won her case Tuesday in Britain's High Court.
Sarika Watkins-Singh, 14, was barred last year from her class at the Aberdare Girls School in Aberdare, about 40 kilometres northwest of the Welsh capital of Cardiff.
The school, a combined junior high and high school, said the bracelet — a thin steel bangle called a "kara" — broke its no-jewelry policy, which only allows watchbands and plain ear studs.
On its website, the school says its mission is, among other things, to inculcate "habits of self-discipline" in its pupils, but also "to develop … attitudes of tolerance."
Tuesday's ruling by a High Court judge said the school failed to promote equality in dealing with Sarika, who must be allowed back to class with her bracelet when the new academic year starts in the fall. The court said wearing the kara is a legitimate expression of her Sikh faith.
"I'm so happy to know that no one else will go through what me and my family have gone through," Sarika said in a statement she read outside the court.
When she refused to remove her bracelet, Sarika was taught in isolation from her fellow classmates for two months before being suspended in November.
A statement from the school said, "Should Sarika wish to return to school in September, in accordance with the judgment, she will be offered help and support to reintegrate her into the normal day-to-day life of the school."
Similar to Montreal case
The case parallels a similar incident in Montreal in 2002, when a school board told a Sikh boy he couldn't wear a ceremonial dagger called a kirpan to class.
The case made it to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled 8-0 in 2006 that Gurbaj Singh Multani had a constitutional right to carry the kirpan, provided it was sewn into a sheath and worn under his clothes.
The kirpan is a symbol of justice that orthodox Sikhs must wear at all times.
With files from the Associated Press