The Sikh Federation (UK) is considering mounting legal action against a school after two students were ordered to remove their turbans on the first day back at school.
Simranjot Kaur, 13, and 11- year-old Prasimran Kaur, who are not related, returned to St Anne’s Catholic School in Southampton, Hampshire, wearing their traditional headgear.
However Prasimran, who was attending her first day of secondary school, was told to take off her turban shortly after walking into school. Simranjot, who is in year nine, said a teacher saw her wearing the turban while coming through the gates the day before.
The pupils, who are baptised Khalsa Sikhs, refused to remove the headgear, which can be worn by both sexes in their religion. They claim the school suggested they were wearing them for “fashion” and that they should be replaced by headscarves usually worn by Muslim women.
The headteacher apologised following the incident and said it was a “misunderstanding”.
In a statement, head teacher Lyn Bourne said: “I would like to apologise to students and parents for any offence caused by our enforcement of our uniform policy. The situation that occurred was a misunderstanding and I can confirm that both girls involved now have permission to wear a turban to school.
“These should be plain navy blue or black until we are able to identify an appropriate supplier.
“St Anne’s is an inclusive school that respects all faiths. We are united by our shared values and do not allow ourselves to be divided by our differences.”
However, a letter sent to the education secretary Nicky Morgan, from the Sikh organisation, demanded the school undertook an “internal grievance process”.
It also called on the school to suspend the teacher who sanctioned the students.
The letter said: “While it has been reported that the head teacher has apologised, it is totally unacceptable and high (sic)offensive that a teacher not only touched the turban, but also star-ted unravelling it, leaving the girl distressed and in tears.
“We indicated yesterday we have been asked to consider further action, including legal options. We are keen to meet you next week to discuss this matter so the Sikh community can be reassured that tough action will be taken against any teacher involved in racial and religious discrimination of this sort, and any similar incident can be avoided in the future.
“The teacher concerned in this incident was totally out of order and repeatedly demanded the young girls remove their turbans (dastaars) and wear headscarfs like Muslim girls.
“We fail to see how the head-teacher can simply dismiss this as a misunderstanding and apo-logise. Lawyers have advised there may be a case of racial and religious discrimination.”
The Sikh Federation (UK), which aims to give followers of the religion a stronger political voice, has indicated taking action against the school for “failing to protect children from racial and religious discrimination by a teacher”.