Ohio parent Christina Johnson is speaking out after learning the Cincinnati school her son Asten attended told her the 6-year-old can’t come back to school if he continues wearing dreadlocks.
Asten’s parents, Christina and Nate Johnson, both wear dreadlocks and say Zion Temple Christian Academy told them their son can’t return to the school with the style, even though he wore it last year as well.
“What’s disheartening about Zion Temple is it’s in the middle of a Black community, and it’s a predominantly Black school,” Christina Johnson told the Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper last week. “How can you not accept your own people?”
According to the dress code a school secretary sent Christina Johnson earlier this month, boys’ hair is to be kept at the length of one inch or less and cannot be worn in “braids, design cuts or Mohawk hairstyles.”
According to the mother, the school said Asten’s hair violates rules relating to length and style. She believes the language about braids and designer hairstyles targets Black students. Cinncinati became the second city in the country to make discrimination based on hairstyle illegal, but the law does not apply to religious organizations.
Asten told the newspaper he feels “sad” about the fact that he won’t be welcome back at the school he enjoyed attending last year. Instead, his parents have arranged for him to transfer to a public school in the upcoming year.
Zion Temple has not responded to the Cincinnati Enquirer’s request for comment, and Nate Johnson said he wouldn’t send his son back to the school even if they did reverse the decision. The Johnsons had hoped to send their younger son to Zion Temple as well, but 3-year-old Arrison has locs too.
“You’re supposed to be accepting,” he said. “Come as you are.”
In recent years, a number of instances of schools barring or sanctioning Black children for wearing the natural hairstyle have made headlines. In 2018, Clinton Stanley Jr., also a 6-year-old at the time, was not allowed to attend a Florida school because his locs violated the policy at the Orlando Christian school.
Last week, a federal judge decided that a Texas school district’s restrictions on dreadlocks via a rule that required boys not wear their hair beyond ear-length could not be enforced. In February, two Black cousins at a school in the Houston-area district were told their locs were unacceptable and unless they were cut they would face in-school suspension. The older cousin subsequently was not allowed to walk across the stage at the graduation ceremony because he did not cut his hair.