Equalities Commission says Belz school ban is unlawful


The Equality and Human Rights Commission has said that it would be unlawful for a school to bar children if their mothers drive.

Leaders of the Belz sect, one of the largest Chasidic groups, in Stamford Hill, north London have told parents that the children of women drivers would not be permitted to attend its schools from next term.

But in a statement, a spokesman for the EHRC said that “this sort of discirimination has no place in our society and we will be writing to leaders of the Belz educational institutions to underline their legal obligations".

The spokesman said that “it is unlawful to ban children from school attendance because their mothers, rather than their fathers, drive them there.”

In response, a spokesman for the Belz community said: “For the second time we read in the media that a public body has raised questions about our community. Yet, to date we have received no contact from either the Department for Education or the EHRC. However, of course, we are taking legal advice.”

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, who is also Minister for Women and Equalities, has already asked her officials to look into the situation after last week’s JC story which reported that Belz leaders had told women that driving was against "traditional rules of modesty in our camp".

In a letter to the Education Secretary on Friday, the chief executive of the main Belz boys’ school in Stamford Hill, Ahron Klein, explained that the group had issued guidelines “which are restricted to our community and guided by the Torah and by the teachings of the Rebbes of Belz. We do not impose these guidelines on anyone who has not chosen to adhere to the mores of our community of his or her own free will.”

Mr Klein said that it was “a fact that most women in our community do not drive cars. It is equally true that a fair number of women do drive cars openly and entirely unhindered. They and their families are as respected within our community as any other members and we have no intention of changing that.”

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