February 26, 2008 / 2:36 AM / in 10 years

Australian school bars turban for Sikh student

CANBERRA (Reuters) - An Australian school refused entry to a Sikh student on Tuesday because he was wearing a turban, saying it would not change its rules despite the threat of legal action.

The family of the 12-year-old boy, who will not be named, have complained to the Anti-Discrimination Commission in Queensland state after Ormiston College ordered the boy to cut his hair and remove his turban as a condition of entry.

“The complaint is the college discriminated against the child by placing conditions on his enrolment that he was unable to comply with because of his religion,” family solicitor Scott McDougall told Australian radio.

Ormiston College is a co-educational and non-denominational school which says on its Web site that it “affirms individual differences and actively promotes cultural and intellectual understanding”.

The private school, which has almost 550 students, is on the coastal outskirts of the state capital Brisbane.

Principal Brett Webster said the school respected the boy’s religious beliefs, but would not change its rules.

“We’re certainly not asking the family or the boy to turn their back on their religion,” Webster said.

“But the question is should the school, should every organisation, change its standard policies every time somebody comes along with a different set of beliefs.”

Australia has around 50,000 Sikhs among the 21 million population.

Several Western nations have been criticised for bans on head coverings and clothing, including France where conspicuous religious symbols are barred. Germany has banned hijabs for female students, while Britain has seen controversy over veils.

Brisbane international airport officials were also criticised on Tuesday after demanding 13 Sikhs and a woman wearing a veil remove their head coverings for security checking.

Airport spokesman Jim Carden said the group had been asked take off the turbans and veil only after initial screening with a metal-detection wand.

“No one has singled out Sikhs or Muslims, or anybody else,” he said. “If the screening authority is still not satisfied that the screening has still not been completed, that passenger may be asked to remove that headgear.”

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