Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Schools can ban face veils

Ministers are to publish new uniforms guidance allowing schools to ban pupils from wearing full face veils for reasons of security, safety or learning.

The BBC reports that the guidance says schools need to be able to identify individual pupils in order to maintain good order and spot intruders. It continues:

"If a pupil's face is obscured for any reason the teacher may not be able to judge their engagement with learning or secure their participation in discussions and practical activities."

This is a reasonable position. The possibility of an intruder entering a school wearing a niqab is a real one. And good relationships can only be built on full interaction; body language and facial expressions as well as speech. Nonetheless, I think this is correct guidance but for the wrong reasons. It is unnecessary for pupils to wear any religious symbols in school. Schools should be an environment where children are exposed to many different ideas and practices and where their own views and opinions should be allowed to flourish. After all, many children will be forced to wear religious garments by their parents, not through their own volition. A uniform, if a school has one, should be exactly that: uniform. Religion is a private matter and the state should ensure that it remains so as far as possible.

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