A West London boy, 12, suspended from school over his dreadlocks is allowed to return without cutting his hair after winning a landmark legal battle.
Former Fulham Boys School student Chikayzea Flanders was told last year that he would either have to shave his dreads or face isolation, as the hairstyle went against the school’s stringent uniform policy, BBC News reported. The boy’s mother, Tuesday Flanders, saw the rule as an attack on their Rastafarian beliefs and took the school to court.
“As parents we place our trust in schools and teachers to help mold our children’s lives through education,” Tuesday Flanders said. “But that should never place restrictions on their identity or their ability to express their religious beliefs.”
The family reached a settlement with the school, allowing young Flanders, who has since transferred to a nearby academy, to return so long as “his dreadlocks are tied up so that they don’t touch the top of his collar, or covered with a cloth of color to be agreed by the school.”
According to the Daily Mail, attorneys with the Equality and Human Rights Commission took Flanders’ case and argued that the school’s uniform policy was discriminatory. Lawyers criticized the rules and noted that Flanders’ dreadlocks were an integral part of his religious beliefs.
Fulham, a Church of England free school, has since admitted to indirect discrimination, and now many hope the landmark win will prompt other London schools to overturn their bans on dreadlocks. Fulham’s strict uniform policy lead to protests outside the school last year, The Guardian reported.
As part of the settlement, the school will be required to review it strict uniform policy and take steps to ensure more equality and diversity training is given to staff. The Governors’ Complaints Resolution Committee also ordered the school to cover the Flanders family’s court costs, according to the newspaper.
“We’re pleased that the school has acknowledged their failings in this instance and has agreed to revise its policies,” said David Isaac, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. “At the heart of this issue is a young boy who is entitled to express his religious beliefs and access an education.”
Alun Ebenezer, head teacher at Fulham, stands by the school’s uniform policy, however, arguing that although the rules are strict, uniformity “shows that only character matters and raises aspiration.”
Not long after the settlement, Fulham Boys School issued the following statement:
“The Fulham Boys School can confirm that a case was settled earlier this year with no admission of liability made. There was no ruling on the acceptability of dreadlocks, no ruling governing the pupil’s return to the school and no judgment made on the school’s enforcement of its policies. … The school will continue to enforce its uniform and appearance policy as a necessary and core part of its inclusive ethos.”