updated 6/15/2004 8:25:51 AM ET 2004-06-15T12:25:51

A 15-year-old British schoolgirl who went to court after being told she couldn’t wear traditional Muslim dress in the classroom lost a legal bid Tuesday to overturn the ban.

Shabina Begum was sent home from Denbigh High School in Luton, north of London, in September 2002 for wearing the jilbab, a long, flowing gown covering all her body except her hands and face. She has not attended school since.

She went to the High Court, arguing she was being denied her right to education and to manifest her religious beliefs.

The school argued the jilbab posed a health and safety risk and might cause divisions among pupils, with those who wore traditional dress being seen as “better Muslims” than others.

Judge Sir Hugh Bennett ruled that the school’s dress code was a “reasoned, balanced, proportionate policy” and that Begum’s human rights had not been violated.

Four-fifths of Denbigh’s 1,000 pupils are Muslims. The school denies acting in a discriminatory manner and says it has a flexible school uniform policy that takes into account all faiths and cultures. Pupils are allowed to wear trousers, skirts or a traditional shalwar kameez, consisting of trousers and a tunic.

“Having considered the matter carefully, it seems to me unrealistic and artificial to say that the claimant’s right to education has been denied in the particular circumstances of this case,” Bennett said.

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