Christian Symbol Forbidden to Students

Country: United Kingdom

Date of incident: June 1, 2006

Students Barred From Wearing Christian Chastity Symbol in Millais School, West Sussex; UK.

Christian girls who have pledged to remain chaste until marriage have been told they can’t wear a silver ring symbolizing purity to their school, the Daily Mail reported yesterday. Officials at the all-girls institution of Millais School said the rings contravened the school’s strict dress code—the only jewellery permitted are small stud earrings. Heather and Phil Playfoot, parents of one girl who wants to wear the ring, have been fighting the school for two years over the issue and are now considering a court case. “There are Muslim girls at the school who are allowed to wear the headcovering, although that isn’t part of the school uniform, and Sikh girls who are allowed to wear the bangle, although that isn’t part of the uniform,” Heather Playfoot told the Daily Mail. “It’s a discriminatory policy. We don’t want her education to be disrupted because of it but we do want her to feel free to wear something that is very significant.” The Playfoot’s daughter Lydia, 15, has stopped wearing the ring because “it was being made really difficult for me,” she said. Girls were given detentions and taught in isolation for wearing the silver ring. “My ring is a symbol of my religious faith. I think, as a Christian, it says we should keep ourselves pure from sexual sinfulness and wearing the ring is a good way of making a stand.” Headmaster of the school Leon Nettley said in a statement that the school’s own sexual education programme emphasized that under-age sex was illegal and encouraged discussion of the issues. “In relation to the issues of wearing a purity ring, the school is not convinced that pupils’ rights have been interfered with by the application of the school’s uniform policy,” which he said was “clearly published” and “set a high standard.” Schools Minister Jim Knight responded to the issue in a written statement by saying that despite the freedom of schools to determine their own uniform guidelines, they should “have regard to their responsibilities under equalities legislation” and be “sensitive to pupils’ cultural and religious needs.”