A 15-year-old British schoolboy found himself kicked out of class and in isolation after his teachers deemed his haircut “too short,” despite it being “a very standard clean cut for a black boy,” according to his mother.
Celestine Sackey-Clarke said she was outraged after learning her son, Emmanuel Sackey-Clarke, was removed from his lessons at the Bedford Free School in Bedfordshire last week all because of his hair. She said she sent the teen for a haircut over the weekend because he was having trouble keeping it brushed and looking presentable.
“He has thick and hard to manage black hair, so the barber gave him a nice low haircut that is easy to brush,” Celestine Sackey-Clarke told Cambridgeshire Live. “We were happy with it, as he didn’t have to spend a lot of time on his hair until it grows out.”
Emmanuel returned to school with a fresh cut on Monday, only for his teacher to boot him from class and remand him to the “nurture base,” a supervised classroom where students complete coursework given by teachers instead of actually going to class. Emmanuel said the teacher who removed him told him he couldn’t return to class until his hair grew back.
“This is a very standard clean cut for a black boy but he gets punished for it,” his mother said, adding that the two days of isolation left her son feeling “low” and “traumatized.”
“He says he felt lonely because he was made to sit by himself facing a wall in a lonely place,” Celestine Sackey-Clarke added. “Once in front of the staff room facing the wall, away from all students and the second day he was sat facing a wall by the music room by himself.”
The teen remained at home following his in-school suspension and his mother left the school a voicemail saying he wouldn’t be coming in.
“I just do not understand how keeping him out of lessons for a haircut is any benefit to anyone,” she said.
Bedford school officials said they’re unable to comment on specific cases but denied putting students in isolation over their haircuts. School principal Stuart Lock later addressed the incident in a statement.
“Should pupils not follow our agreed standards of uniform, we do allocate resources to educate them in our nurture base so that we can keep our overall standards high while ensuring they still receive a high quality of education,” Lock said. “The nurture base is where we ensure that pupils who are out of mainstream lessons are able to access the full curriculum and make progress, and are fully supervised. These pupils are not isolated.”
The headteacher called the school’s uniform standards “an important element of the very high expectations we hold for all our pupils.”
According to Cambridgeshire Live, Emmanuel Sackey-Clarke has since returned to class and school officials are working to resolve the matter with his mother.