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UK education authority allows schools to ban Muslim veils

[JURIST] The UK Department of Education and Skills [official website] issued school uniform guidelines [backgrounder] Tuesday that allow schools to ban students from wearing Muslim veils [JURIST news archive] if teachers believe the garments can affect safety or a student's learning. Minister for Schools Jim Knight [personal website] noted [press release] that "uniforms can help to develop the right mindset among pupils" and that schools should consult parents and the wider community when setting uniform policy. He added, however, that safety and effective learning concerns should take precedence over social, religious or medical requirements of individual pupils. AP has more.

In February, the UK High Court [official website] denied [JURIST report] an application for judicial review stemming from a 12-year-old Muslim girl's challenge to a public school policy that prevented her from wearing her full-face veil (niqab) [Wikipedia backgrounder] at school. Mr. Justice Silber found the school policy appropriate, on the grounds that the veil would dampen teacher interaction, and that the policy fosters a sense of equality among students and could prevent an unwanted visitor from using a veil as a disguise to enter the school undetected by administrators. Also in February, a panel of UK senior judges were reported to have agreed that full Islamic veils should not be worn [JURIST report] in British courts and tribunals, but that individual judges and magistrates should have discretion to allow a full veil to be worn if it did not go against the "interests of justice." Muslim veils and other forms of religious dress [JURIST report] are currently banned from public schools in France and are highly contentious [JURIST reports] in Germany.

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