Sikh pupil's trauma after High Court

22nd August 2008 at 01:00

Sikh pupil Sarika Watkins-Singh has been receiving trauma counselling since her permanent exclusion last November over her refusal to stop wearing the kara, a steel bangle of faith.

She is also uncertain whether to return to Aberdare Girls' School next month after her successful claim of religious and race discrimination against school governors in the High Court, TES Cymru has learned.

Teaching unions criticised the landmark ruling by Justice Silber, saying the school had tried to compromise with Miss Watkins-Singh by asking her to cover the bangle, which contravened the school's code on jewellery.

But the judge criticised the school's "seriously erroneous attitude", especially in comparing the wearing of the Kara, one of the five Ks of the Sikh religion, to displaying the Welsh flag.

The 14-year-old pupil's mother, Sanita Singh, has been angered by the school's apparent lack of attempts at reconciliation. She also claims her daughter is refusing to leave her house.

"(The school hasn't) had the decency to apologise," she told TES Cymru. "We haven't heard a personal word from them since the judgement. If Sarika does go back, what's going to happen? How is she going to be received. Will she be welcome?"

After Miss Watkins-Singh's exclusion, she was home tutored before going to Mountain Ash School in Mid Glamorgan until the end of the summer term.

After the court case, school representatives said Miss Watkins-Singh was welcome to return and they would help her to "reintegrate".

Mrs Singh said one alternative would be for Sarika, who starts studying for GCSEs this year and wants to be a lawyer, is to have some home tuition and return to school part-time. Another could be combining online tuition with going to college.

"We have to do what's best for her," said Mrs Singh. "But if we had an apology from Aberdare Girls' school, that would certainly help. She'll continue with counselling because of the impact of all this."

On academic grounds, Mrs Singh said she wanted Sarika to return to Aberdare Girls'.

A meeting has been scheduled to discuss uniform rules for the new term at the school. Last year, pupils were allowed to wear only a single pair of stud earrings and a wristwatch.

Sarika's case, which was taken up by the human rights organisation Liberty, was legally aided. The cost to Aberdare Girls' School, which funded its legal battle, is still unknown.

Ian Blake, chair of governors at the school, confirmed that the school had not been in touch with Miss Watkins-Singh or her family since the case. "We are waiting for Miss Watkins-Singh or her mother to get back in touch with us if she wants to return," he said.

"There won't be any public apology as the judge said the school acted in good faith."

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