Friday 18 January 2019

Law governing schoolgirl uniforms 'open to challenge'

Challenges: Barrister Cathy Maguire said parents could use the Equal Status Act 2000 to sue for discrimination over school uniform policies
Challenges: Barrister Cathy Maguire said parents could use the Equal Status Act 2000 to sue for discrimination over school uniform policies
Laura Lynott

Laura Lynott

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) could be used as the legal forum for any schoolgirl who no longer wishes to wear a skirt as part of her uniform.

Barrister Cathy Maguire, who specialises in labour and employment law, said this area is regulated by the Equal Status Act 2000.

"Under the Equal Status Act 2000, a pupil suing through a parent may challenge a school uniform policy before the WRC on the grounds that it discriminates against them on one of the protected grounds, for example, gender, sexual orientation, religion or disability," Ms Maguire said.

"The 2000 Act prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination.

"In the past, it has been held that a rule which required boys to keep their hair short, but permitted girls to wear their hair long, was discriminatory on the gender ground because girls could wear their hair as they chose outside school whereas boys could not."

A spokesman for the Department of Education said it does not have the power to intervene when it comes to school uniforms, as individual boards of management are responsible for governance in their respective school.

However, the department is preparing legislation that will require schools to prepare and publish a parent and student charter.

"Under a parent and student charter, schools will be required to invite feedback from students and parents and provide better information about school policies," he added.

Irish Independent

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