‘Natural hair’

Girl, 5, wins right to wear dreadlocks to school in landmark legal ruling

(Sherine Virgo)

A 5-year-old girl in Jamaica has won the right to wear dreadlocks to school after a legal battle with the both the school and the Ministry of Education was resolved in her favor by the country’s Supreme Court.

The girl’s mother, Sherine Virgo, said that her daughter had been accepted at Kensington Primary School, an esteemed public school near Kingston, but was told by the principal during orientation that she would have cut off her daughter’s hair — apparently as a matter of hygiene. But Virgo refused, noting that other students, many white, were allowed to keep long hair so long as it was straight. Her case was taken up by the human rights group Jamaicans for Justice, which argued that the barring of children with dreadlocks or “natural” hair from attending school was discriminatory and violated the child’s constitutional right to an education. In the end, the Supreme Court agreed and issued an injunction to force the school to accept the girl wearing her hair in dreadlocks.

“Without this court order, she faced the prospect of being denied an education simply for refusing to remove her dreadlocks,” said Jamaicans for Justice executive director Rodje Malcolm.

Similar cases have sparked outrage in the U.S. Just last week, a viral video showed an 11-year-old girl being kicked out of a Louisiana Catholic school over her braided hair extensions. Another video taken in Florida showed a 6-year-old boy being told by school officials that he was being unenrolled because he came to class wearing dreadlocks. According to critics, such hair policies are a surviving relic of systemically racist policies intended to bar black Americans from access to education. In Jamaica, that argument takes on an added dimension thanks to the country’s historical repression of Rastafarians, a minority religious group whose members wear dreadlocks as part of their culture. Virgo, for her part, said that while she and her daughter are not Rastafarians, for her the dreadlocks represented an important part of their identity.

“It is our natural hair, it is our nation’s culture and it what God has blessed us with,” said Virgo.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

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