A school in Middlesex, England, is threatening legal action against parents of a 12-year-old Muslim girl who was sent home from school every day in December. The reason for this uproar? Siham Hamud refused to wear a shorter skirt on religious grounds, which violated the school’s dress code.
Hamud, a student at Uxbridge High School, told The Telegraph, “It feels like bullying because of what I believe.” She had been able to wear an ankle-length skirt to school for years before it became a disciplinary issue in December. The school’s uniform code, which was enacted two years ago, requires female students to wear pleated, school-issue skirts or trousers. Siham was first approached by teachers about the issue on December 1, and was sent home each day for the rest of term. Now, she is attending school online due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, but her family expects the issue to continue when they are allowed to return to in-person classes.
Her father, Idris, a sports coach, told The Telegraph that the branch of Islam they follow believes women should wear long skirts. He continued, “All Siham wants to do is to wear a skirt which is a few centimeters longer than her classmates—and I don’t know why the school has such a problem with this.” He plans to fight all legal action brought by the school.
School uniforms, particularly for young women, and students of color, have become a flashpoint in recent years. A similar case to Hamud’s occurred in France in 2015, when a Muslim teenager was sent home for her long skirt, which teachers felt “conspicuously” showed her religious affiliation. A 2004 law in France allows only “discreet religious signs” in schools.
The conversation routinely makes headlines in the United States as students across the country come forward with claims they’ve been discriminated against. An 11-year-old Black girl in Louisiana was sent home from elementary school for wearing braided hair extensions which broke the school’s policy banning “extensions, clip-ins, or weaves.” When a Kentucky female student was sent home for exposing her collarbone in 2015, the story went viral. More recently, Trevor Wilkinson, a senior at a high school in Texas received an in-school suspension for painting his nails.
While the particulars of each case are unique—whether the issue is a skirt that’s too short or too long—these dress codes can leave students vulnerable to discrimination or humiliation. Critics will surely say dress codes should apply equally to all students, but this sentiment brushes over the fact that they do not affect all students equally. Conceivably, the goal of a dress code is to place students on equal footing with their clothing so they can focus on studies. Who benefits when a 12-year-old young woman is sent home every day for weeks?
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Originally published on Vogue.com