A Lucknow ICSE school is facing an official inquiry for preventing a Class IX student from attending classes because she wore a hijab.
Anil Agarwal, the managing director of St Joseph’s Inter College, said that the school had a dress code. “If somebody wants to wear a religious dress, they should seek admission in a madrasa or some such school,” he said.
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District Magistrate Raj Shekhar has ordered an inquiry into the incident by the Additional City Magistrate and District Inspector of Schools, and sought a joint report by May 19.
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The order followed a letter received by Shekhar from the mother of the student, Farheen Fatima, about her daughter being barred from attending classes at St Joseph’s.
The school responded Friday by saying that allowing Farheen to enter the school with a hijab “would not be appropriate and granting such permission might lead to more issues in the near future.”
Farheen’s family, meanwhile, has withdrawn her from the school and is looking for admission elsewhere in the city.
In her letter to the District Magistrate, Fatima Waqar, from Thakurganj in Lucknow, alleged that her daughter was admitted to Class IX at St Joseph’s Inter College on May 6 after “fulfilling all admission criteria”.
“On May 7, she was stopped from attending class and told she could not wear a hijab if she wished to proceed. But Farheen had been wearing a hijab during the entire admission process, even her admission letter has a photo of her wearing the headscarf,” Fatima wrote.
Farheen’s brother-in-law Shadab Waheed — her father died two years ago — said that before her admission was finalised, she was interviewed by the principal, “who did not object to the scarf”.
“On May 6, we submitted the fees and the admission was finalised. On May 7, she went to school and was asked to remove her headscarf. She replied that she could not do so since she was from a religious family. They made her sit in the library till classes got over,” he alleged.
Waheed said that when the “same thing was repeated on May 8”, Fatima was called to the school. “The school asked her to submit a written request which she did on May 11, saying Farheen should be allowed to attend classes with a hijab or the fee be refunded,” he charged.
He said the school called Fatima for another meeting on Thursday. “The principal kept us waiting for an hour and-a-half and later informed us through a teacher that they couldn’t allow Farheen to sit in class with a hijab as it was against their rules. They refused to put down anything in writing,” Waheed alleged.
In a statement submitted to the District Magistrate on Friday, the school’s founder-manager Pushplata Agarwal said that “at the time of admission, the parents had not stated that their child would study with a hijab…the student was told that she can come to the school with a hijab but will have to remove it and keep it at an earmarked place and that she cannot wear a hijab inside the classroom.”