Although schools have rules about what you can and can’t wear to school, there isn’t any specific legislation about school uniform. The uniform policy is set by either the individual school or the local education authority.
Rules about school uniform can be about more than just clothing, they can apply to anything that affects your appearance—like the wearing of jewellery or badges; in fact, anything that might affect the school’s image.
However, there have been court decisions in English and Wales that found it may not be a breach of human rights to restrict the wearing of particular clothing or jewellery. That’s true even where it may be connected to a pupil’s religious beliefs.
As well as this, the European Court of Human Rights has decided that having to wear school uniform is not a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.
However, school uniform rules shouldn’t have a disproportionate effect on any one gender, race or religion. An example of this is a recent court ruling which found that a ban on jewellery – which made it against the rules for a pupil to wear a Sikh bangle – was unlawful discrimination on the grounds of both race and religion.
Direct discrimination happens when a person is treated differently because of the way they are.
For example, it happens if someone doesn’t get a job because of their disability or isn’t treated equally because of their race.
Indirect discrimination happens when something applies to everyone in the same way but affects some people unfairly.
For example, if everyone had to climb up a flight of stairs to get to an after school club, this would discriminate against children who couldn’t do that because of disability.
The LGBT Youth Scotland website has advice, information and resources for young people, parents and carers and professionals. There’s a chat line, too (tel. 0131 555 3940).
What you can do
If you believe that your school’s uniform policy discriminates against you, having a discussion with the school is the first step. You might ask them to do a Child Rights Impact Assessment of their policy.
If this doesn’t help, you can contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service who give advice on behalf of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. They can let you know if it is possible that school rules may discriminate against you and what you can do about it if they do.
If you are a child or a young person and would like advice and information from the Commissioner’s office – or to tell us something you’re worried about – you can contact us:
- using the form at the bottom of our website
- emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- texting 0770 233 5720 (Texts will be charged at your standard network rate)
- calling our children and young people’s freephone on 0800 019 1179.
We can also give advice and information about children’s rights issues to adults—please contact us on email@example.com or through using our contact form.