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St Hilda's defends stripping head girl of post

Published:Thursday | October 8, 2015 | 10:00 AM

St Hilda's Diocesan High School has responded to accusations by the mother of a student at the Brown's Town-located institution that it discriminated against her daughter when she was relieved of the post of head girl.

Rhonda Clarke is contending that her daughter, Jade Bascoe, was stripped of the position because she was believed to be a member of the Jehovah's Witness faith.

In a statement yesterday, Principal Heather Reid-Johnson said Bascoe's appointment was rescinded as a result of the potential conflict with her religion.

St Hilda's, an Anglican institution, said it has never asked students of other faiths to assume duties that are in conflict with their beliefs and practices.

Meanwhile, attorney-at-law Linton Gordon believes the safest way to deal with religion in schools and avoid conflicts, as in this instance, is by removing religion from schools.

"There are some practices that might violate people's rights, so the safest way is to reduce the extent to which religion is used in schools," Gordon told The Gleaner last night.

Gordon also said the school had done no wrong in the matter, saying the school would, in fact, be at fault if they had allowed her to continue in the position.

Gordon said if there were things that the student, based on her religion, is not supposed to do, but based on her position as head girl would be required to do, the school would then be breaching her rights by putting her in a position where she would then be required to do those things.

"St Hilda's Diocesan High School believes in religious freedom," the statement read.

"Our student body includes many students who are members of other denominations."

POTENTIALCONFLICT

The school said: "However, the head girl, as the leader of the student government, is required to perform duties supportive of tenets of the Anglican tradition, which are deeply embedded in the operational policies and procedures of this educational institution."

It added: "As an institution operating under the auspices of the Ministry of Education,

St Hilda's is required to participate in national and civic functions and activities, such as the Independence flag-raising ceremonies and National Heroes Day celebrations, which contribute to the development of our children as future citizens. The inability of a head girl to participate in these events because of religious beliefs would restrict and negatively impact our school's engagement with the wider community of which it is an integral part."

St Hilda's said given the potential conflict that the exercise of such duties would pose for Bascoe and the institution, it felt it would be "unwise to put her in that position".

Earlier this week, Clarke claimed her daughter was not a Jehovah's Witness and that she erred when she indicated that she was on her school application form.