THE Constitutional Court will start its busy schedule of hearings in
its first term this year with a case on whether a school was within its
rights to ban a pupil from wearing a nose stud, writes Ernest Mabuza in Business Day.

The case concerns Sunali Pillay, who was a pupil of Durban Girls’ High School at the time, and who was not allowed to wear a nose stud because it violated school rules.

Pillay’s mother challenged the ban at the Equality Court last year, alleging that the school had unfairly discriminated against her daughter and had violated her cultural rights.

However, the Equality Court found that the school had not unfairly discriminated against Pillay. On appeal, the Pietermaritzburg High Court overturned the decision and found that the school had discriminated against the pupil and that the discrimination was unfair. It found that the ban “constituted arbitrary, unlawful, unreasonable and unjustifiable discrimination”.

The KwaZulu-Natal education department and the school appealed against the high court decision.

The court will now adjudicate on the competing rights of pupils to practise their religion and schools’ rights to set rules regarding uniform and dress. The case will no longer affect Pillay as she passed matric last year.

The department said national guidelines setting out how religious and cultural rights should be handled in schools had been promulgated.

Although the department asked to withdraw as appellants in the case last September as it felt the issue had become academic, the court has called in three organisations as friends of the court.

Click here to read the full report, posted on Business Day's website.