Christian school in Australia changes uniform policy to allow Sikh boy to wear turban

(Pixabay/shannonmatthew)Representative image: A Christian school in Australia has amended its uniform policy after it was found to have breached discrimination laws when it refused to admit a Sikh boy for wearing a turban.

A Christian school in Melbourne, Australia has amended its uniform policy after a court ruled that it had discriminated against a Sikh boy when it refused to admit him for wearing a turban.

Melton Christian College (MCC) was found to have violated Australia's Equal Opportunity Act in September for not allowing Sidhak Singh Arora to attend school wearing patka, or a child's turban.

In a joint statement, the school and the boy's parents said that the uniform policy will now allow exceptions "where genuine medical or religious grounds exist, such that Sidhak will be able to start at MCC in the beginning of the 2018 school year."

According to SBS News, Sidhak's parents, Sagardeep Singh Arora and Anureet Kaur Arora, tried to enroll their son at MCC in 2016, just before the case was brought before the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

The Aroras said that they wanted their son to attend MCC because it was close to their home and because his cousins also attend the school.

During the hearing at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), the school argued that its decision to ban the turban was lawful under exemptions to the Equal Opportunity Act.

The court, however, ruled that "MCC's uniform policy, in so far as it prohibits headgear of a non-Christian faith, could be described as 'openly discriminatory.'"

David Gleeson, the principal of MCC, had previously said that the school admitted several Sikh students but none of them were allowed to wear the religious head covering. He compared the situation to a child who likes to wear a New Balance cap but is not permitted because the school's policy does not allow anything additional to the uniform.

VCAT member Julie Grainger argued that the school could have made adjustments to its policy by allowing Sidhak to wear a patka in the school uniform colors.

"It is not reasonable to accept enrolment applications from students from non-Christian faiths only on condition that they do not look like they practise a non-Christian religion," Grainger said when the court handed down its decision in September.

VCAT reportedly ordered MCC and the boy's parents to attend a compulsory conference before the court issued its decision. After attending the conference, both parties issued the statement announcing the changes to the school's uniform policy.

"MCC regrets the difficulties that took place with respect to the enrolment and the family is grateful to the school for the amendments it has made to the uniform policy in order to welcome Sidhak to the school," the statement read, according to SBS News.

The court's decision has reportedly prompted the move for other educational institutions to re-examine their uniform policy.

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