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London School That Told Boy To Cut Off Dreadlocks Backs Down

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London School That Told Boy To Cut Off Dreadlocks Backs Down

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Fulham boys school accepts ban resulted in ‘indirect discrimination’ against Chikayzea Flanders

FULHAM UK – A 12-year-old boy who left a school after being told to cut off his dreadlocks is to be allowed to keep them and return there, after legal action funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

Chikayzea Flanders left the Fulham boys school in London after being told on his first day in September 2017 that his dreadlocked hair, which he wore tied up, did not comply with the school’s uniform and appearance policy and had to be cut off or he would face suspension.

His mother, Tuesday Flanders, mounted a campaign saying his dreadlocks were a fundamental tenet of his Rastafarian beliefs and therefore should be exempt from the policy. Her son was taught in isolation and subsequently chose to leave the school to attend a nearby academy instead.

Supporters protested outside the school, calling for the strict uniform policy to be changed to include all religions, faiths, and cultures.

The headteacher, Alun Ebenezer, maintained that the school was strict in many areas including hair appearance, standards and behavior and said it had students from a number of backgrounds.

Chikayzea, now 13, and his mother have now reached an agreement with the school, “with both sides accepting that the school’s enforcement of its uniform policy and ban on dreadlocks resulted in indirect discrimination”, according to the family’s lawyers, Steel, and Shamash Solicitors.

A governors’ complaints resolution committee recommended that equality in diversity training be made available to the school’s staff and governors and that the uniform policy be reviewed.

Chikayzea is welcome to return to the school should he wish to do so, provided that his dreadlocks are tied up so that they do not touch the top of his collar or are covered with a cloth of a colour to be agreed by the school.

His mother said: “As parents we place our trust in schools and teachers to help mold our children’s lives through education, but that should never place restrictions on their identity or their ability to express their religious beliefs.”

She had argued the whole family was Rastafarian and the dreadlocks were not a question of fashion but of belief. She had not wanted to take legal action and had pleaded with the school, she has said.

David Isaac, the EHRC chair, said: “At the heart of this issue is a young boy who is entitled to express his religious beliefs and access an education. We are pleased that the school has acknowledged their failings in this instance and has agreed to revise its policies.

“We funded this case because no child should be prevented from attending their chosen school because of inflexible uniform policies that discriminate against children on the basis of their race or religious beliefs.”

The Fulham boys school has been contacted for comment [see footnote].

  • On 13 September 2018, after publication, the Guardian was contacted by the Fulham boys school, which requested that the following statement be added:

    “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.”

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