A Black father is pursuing legal action against A Books Christian Academy in Apopka, Florida after his six-year-old son was stopped from entering the building because of his hairstyle.
Clinton Stanley announced on Thursday, Nov. 29, he was filing suit against the school with help of the ACLU and the NAACP. In legal documentation, he claimed his son C.J. Stanley Jr. was discriminated against due to his race and that the school violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
“It’s not right for a school to take taxpayer dollars while singling out and shaming Black natural hair,” Stanley wrote to the ACLU in a statement. “On behalf of my son and other Black children in my community, I’m urging the Florida Department of Education to hold A Book’s Christian Academy accountable.”
In August, Stanley and his son C.J. arrived at the Christian Academy for the six-year-old’s first day of school at a new school. However, upon entering the school building they were stopped by a reverend who said, “Take him home and take him to a haircut,” Stanley told the Washington Post over the summer.
The Florida school said C.J.’s hair violated its policy which forbids boys from having hairstyles including “dreads, Mohawks, designs, unnatural color, or unnatural designs.”
Stanley recorded the incident on his mobile phone. Sue Book, the school’s administrator said the family was aware of their policy and that “all boys hair must be a tapered cut, off the collar and ears.”
However, the school’s promotional video featured a white boy with hair below his ears.
The incident led C.J. to ask his father if something was wrong with his hair. He asked his dad if could pull his dreads into a “ponytail.”
“It broke my heart to tell him that the school had refused even these compromises. Despite what they said, it was clear the problem wasn’t the length. They wanted our scholarship money — but they also wanted the power to control, and muffle, a child’s Blackness, the Blackness so visibly expressed by CJ’s kinky hair,” Stanley wrote.
NAACP Legal Defense Fund lawyer Angel Harris filed a 9-page complaint stating that the private school targeted African-American hairstyles as a reason to prohibit access. The complaint also stated that the six-year-old suffered damage stemming from the incident.
“Clinton Jr. has experienced significant emotional distress as a result of the incident on the first day of school. Mr. Stanley fears his son will feel shame or stigma because of his natural hair,” the complaint alleged. “This incident has also prompted Mr. Stanley to have difficult conversations with Clinton Jr. about race for the first time.”
Stanley said he tries to shield C.J. from racism, but the incident taught his son a sad lesson about race.
“There is something terribly wrong with grooming codes that don’t respect the cultures of their student bodies. … The problem is a school policy that doesn’t accept my son, and others like him, for who they are,” wrote Stanley.