Jamaica’s Supreme Court Says School Can Ban Dreadlocks
A high court in Jamaica has upheld a primary school’s decision to ban dreadlocks.
The Supreme Court of Jamaica ruling came after a two-year legal battle between Kensington Primary School in Kingston and the parents of a then-five-year-old who was told she must cut her dreadlocks for ‘hygiene’ reasons if she wished to attend the school.
The court case touched on identity issues given that dreadlocks are an iconic symbol of Jamaican Rastafarian culture.
Jamaicans for Justice, a rights group, offered its support to the family, saying forcing the girl to cut her dreadlocks is a denial of her freedom of expression and right to education.
Meanwhile, others saw the legal battle as a stand against the discrimination put against those who wear ‘natural’ hair, particularly Rastafarians whose dreads are part of their tradition.
Following the ruling, the parents, Dale and Sherine Virgo, who also wear dreads themselves, say they will be appealing the decision.
As per The Washington Post, Sherine said:
I will not be cutting my daughter’s hair. If they give me that ultimatum again, I will be moving her.
The little girl, who is now seven years old, is only addressed as ‘Z’ in the court papers due to the fact she’s a minor. Throughout the legal battle she has continued to attend classes at the school, after the courts delivered an injunction against the Ministry of Education, meaning she could go without having to cut her dreads.
The family’s lawyer, Isat Buchanan, said:
I am more than surprised. It is most unfortunate. It is a most unfortunate day for Black people and for Rastafarian people in Jamaica.
Meanwhile, Dale said the ruling is yet another example of systemic racism.
‘A child was refused because of her Black hair, you know? It’s so weird that right now in the current climate of the world, in 2020, we are having protests, and Black people are fed up,’ he said.
‘This is an opportunity the Jamaican government and the legal system had to right these wrongs and lead the world and make a change. But they have decided to keep the same system.’
Verene Shepherd, director of the Center for Reparation Research at the University of the West Indies, said:
In general, I think that discrimination on the grounds of hairstyle is wrong.
I do not think our children who are Rastafari and who express their culture through their hair should be discriminated against.
Although the Virgos don’t identify as Rastafarian, they say wearing dreadlocks is part of their identity, as the whole family wear the natural hairstyle.
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CreditsThe Washington Post
The Washington Post