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Today is Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Schoolgirl Fights to Wear Trousers

[LONDON] - Britain's sexual equality body said on Thursday it was backing a schoolgirl's bid to wear trousers in the classroom.

The government-funded Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) said it may take a school to court for sexual discrimination because of its skirts-only rule for girls.

The case is the latest in a series of legal challenges to Britain's once-strict rules on pupils wearing a smart uniform of blazer and tie, with trousers for boys and skirts for girls.

"It is vital that we encourage young people not to be limited by old-fashioned, stereotypical ideas on men and women's roles in society," EOC chairwoman Julie Mellor said in a statement. "There is a strong argument that preventing girls from having the option of wearing trousers on the grounds of sex is actually unlawful sex discrimination."

The Commission refused to name the girl and school involved, saying they were still in talks with the school in a bid to avoid legal action.

Britain's headteachers have faced mounting pressure in recent years to ease rules on uniforms, with many schools abandoning the blazer and tie for more informal clothes.

Teenage schoolgirl Jo Hale, from Gateshead, northern England, made headlines in Britain in February 2000 after winning the right to wear trousers to school.

Her mother, Claire Hale, accused Whickam School in Gateshead of sexual discrimination and threatened to sue. The school settled out of court, saying it was reluctant to spend part of its education budget on legal fees.

In 1998, older girls at the private Cheltenham Ladies' College in southwest England were given the right to wear trousers, overturning rules laid down 145 years before.

The Department for Education and Skills said it was up to school governors to decide what pupils wear.

"They (governors) must take into account their responsibilities under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975," the department said in a statement. "It would ultimately be for the courts to decide if this was a sex discrimination issue."

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