Two recent cases will allow school governors to breathe a sigh of relief, as in both cases attempts by students to obtain redress for what they claimed were breaches of their human rights have failed.
In the first case, a thirteen-year-old student took his case to the House of Lords, claiming that his right to education was infringed when he was excluded from school. Abdul Hakim Ali was excluded from the Lord Grey School after allegations were made that he had participated in starting a classroom fire. The case was eventually dropped for lack of evidence, but he was excluded whilst investigations were ongoing and work was sent to him at home.
He claimed that this infringed his right to education under the First Protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Lords, however, judged that the response of the school (which had offered to readmit him when the case against him was dropped) was reasonable and appropriate and so he lost his case.
In the second case, a Muslim teenager lost her appeal in which she had claimed that her former school’s dress code infringed her right to religious freedom. In this case, the student wished to wear a jilbab, but the school’s policy did not allow this. It did, however, allow female Muslims to wear a shalwar kameez.
The Law Lords found that the school uniform policy was reasonable and did permit the expression of religious freedom. That right, according to the Lords, does not accrue in all places at all times.
School governors who implement reasonable policies will take comfort that such policies are unlikely to be attacked successfully using human rights law.