School bans Sikh pupil over holy dagger

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The Independent Online

A Sikh boy has been withdrawn from a school in a dispute over a ceremonial dagger, his local education authority confirmed today.

The 14-year-old who has not been named, was forbidden from wearing a five inch (12.7cm) kirpan to The Compton School in Barnet, north London, on the grounds that it was a health and safety risk.

The ceremonial sword, or dagger, is one of five articles of the Sikh faith that must be carried at all times.

The school governors said they had tried to reach a compromise and had proposed that he wore a two-inch version of the dagger welded into a sheath.

But this was rejected by his family who said the miniature dagger was not a genuine kirpan.

The boy first started carrying the five inch kirpan two years ago when he was baptised as a Sikh.

But according to his older brother Ravjeet Singh, he was no longer allowed to wear the dagger at the beginning of this term.

"He was greeted by the head teacher at the school and was asked if he was wearing the kirpan," he told the BBC's Asian Network.

"He said yes and then they said, 'We're going to have to turn you away'."

The boy's family told the BBC he was now being privately educated having missed five weeks of school.

A statement from The Compton School board of governors said: "The student involved is a valued pupil at the school who is expected to get good grades in his forthcoming GCSEs.

"The school's governing body has spent the past two years trying to reach an agreement with the family and to establish the appropriate nature of a religious artefact that can safely be brought into school.

"During this period of time, along with the local authority, we have examined potential compromises after looking at how this issue has been dealt with in other schools, education authorities and elsewhere within the Sikh community and taken legal advice.

"At the moment we are holding a place open for the student should he feel able to wear a kirpan suitable to bring into school."