School gets huge bill for banning Sikh bracelet

April 20th, 2009 - 2:23 pm ICT by IANS  

London, April 20 (IANS) A school in Wales that had banned a Sikh student from wearing a kara (bracelet) has lost a high court battle over the issue and has been asked to pay 2000,000 pounds ($293,000) in legal costs.
Aberdare Girls School had banned 15-year-old Sarika Watkins-Singh from wearing the bracelet that is one of the five symbols of the Sikh religion. Not only was the ban overturned in court, the school has now been landed with a huge legal bill, the Daily Express reported Monday.

The school is reeling from the bill, which includes an invoice from human rights group Liberty, who brought the case on behalf of the student. The school’s own legal fees are 76,000 pounds.

Early last year, Sarika was excluded from school for refusing to stop wearing the bangle, which she stated was fundamental to her religious belief.

The school denied any racial discrimination. But the student spent nine weeks being taught in isolation because the bangle was against the school’s uniform policy.

The school was originally given legal help from the local authority, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, but when it refused to back down and instead opted to fight the case in the High Court, the free advice was withdrawn.

Now campaigners say the school should never have taken the battle to the High Court.

Sarika won the case after a three-day hearing last June, in which her exclusion was ruled to be ‘unlawful’.

The school, with an annual budget of around 2.2 million pounds, has already paid 60,000 pounds to Liberty but disputes an extra bill of 80,000 pounds.

on Sunday, critics slammed the massive cost of the case as “a waste of taxpayers’ money” and claimed pupils will “suffer” as a result.

TaxPayers Alliance spokesman Mark Wallace said: “This case means a headache for the taxpayer who will ultimately be forced to stump up. This just emphasises the need for schools to be given full control of their rules and regimes without the risk of politically correct enforcement. The problem in this case arose because of interference from other parties.”

Sarika’s case caused controversy last year when it emerged that she had been excluded from school. Last November, it was thought that the school would have to pay 76,000 pounds in legal costs.

Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, Nick Seaton, said: “This is 200,000 pounds which is likely to come out of the school’s budget. It means that the students will suffer.”

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