A Muslim school has refuted claims of a British daily that a student was suspended for speaking to a member of the opposite sex as “utterly misleading and inaccurate.”
The Sunday Times claimed the Al-Khair School in Croydon, South London, had suspended a pupil for breaking its behaviour policy which forbids “all forms of communication between boys and girls.”
Although the identity and gender of the pupil was not revealed, the article revealed the Department for Education has opened an investigation into the incident; over concerns that the policy could be in breach of the Equality Act or the standards that cover independent fee-paying schools.
It also added that schools regulator, Ofsted, were aware of the policy following a surprise inspection in September, but had failed to address the alleged ban on “free-mixing” between genders.
A copy of the school’s behaviour policy reportedly stated that communication “through any medium” between pupils of different genders who are not close relatives was forbidden. “Free-mixing” was reportedly mentioned alongside “drug dealing, stealing, extortion, racism and arson,” in a list of all the high-level offences that could lead to exclusion.
Following the article, the school responded to the claims in a statement on its website in which it termed the article “deliberately simplistic and misleading.”
The statement also says the paper was “clearly informed” that the student’s suspension was not for “innocent communication” as has been alleged, but for a “considerably more serious and sensitive matter which caused considerable distress to another pupil.”
Further, the school also alleged that the paper ‘ignored’ offers of a meeting “to get the full facts” before publication.
Referring to the Ofsted report mentioned in the article, the statement said that inspectors “were informed of this incident during the Ofsted inspection and felt assured that the matter has been dealt with appropriately.”
The school also said it was making a formal complaint to the press regulator over the article, adding that “other action may follow when we have taken appropriate advice.”
“The school’s policy is clearly published and parents send their children [to the school] in the full knowledge of the code, which only prohibits communication not conducive to the educational environment we promote,” Mark Thomas, the school’s media representative said.
Thomas added that the recent Ofsted report graded the school as ‘good’ in its overall performance and ‘outstanding’ for personal development, behaviour and welfare of pupils.
In 2013, the Al-Madinah school in Derby, a free government school was forced to close for several days following an inspection, over accusations that female staff had been made to wear hijabs, and girls had been forced to sit at the back of the room during classes. The school has since reopened.
Under Ofsted rules that were introduced by the coalition government, all British schools, whether they are independent or state-funded, have a duty to “actively promote” fundamental British values and prepare their pupils for life in modern Britain.
This article originally appeared on Independent.