School discriminated against Rastafarian boy by telling him to cut his dreadlocks

Published: 12 Sep 2018

A London school boy has been allowed to keep his dreadlocked hair and return to Fulham Boys School, following legal action brought by Steel & Shamash Solicitors and funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

On his first day at Fulham Boys School in September 2017, Chikayzea Flanders was isolated from his class mates and told that his dreadlocked hair did not comply with the school’s uniform and appearance policy and must be cut off. However, his dreadlocks were a fundamental tenet of his Rastafarian beliefs and therefore should be exempt from the policy. The school failed to acknowledge this when enforcing their uniform policy and Chikayzea left the school later that month, choosing to attend a nearby academy instead.

Chikayzea Flanders and his mother have now reached an agreement with Fulham Boys School, with both sides accepting that the school’s enforcement of its uniform policy and ban on dreadlocks resulted in indirect discrimination.

A Governors’ Complaints Resolution Committee recommended that the school should:

  • make equality and diversity training available to improve awareness amongst governors and senior staff
  • review its Uniform and Appearance Policy against applicable legislation to ensure compliance and clarity
  • review its complaints policy and ensure that records of meetings are noted
  • review its transition process and consider asking prospective parents to confirm in writing their understanding of the uniform policies

Fulham Boys School has also been ordered by the County Court to pay Chikayzea and his mother a settlement and cover the litigation costs. Chikayzea is welcome to return to the school, should he wish to, provided that his dreadlocks are tied up so that they do not touch the top of his collar, or covered with a cloth of colour to be agreed by the school.

Chikayzea's mother, Tuesday Flanders, said:

'As parents we place our trust in schools and teachers to help mould our children’s lives through education, but that should never place restrictions on their identity or their ability to express their religious beliefs.

'We are grateful to the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Steel & Shamash Solicitors for their support and would like to make sure that communities know that their identity and religious beliefs matter and they cannot be forced to change these to access education.'

David Isaac, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, 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.'

We provided funding for this case as part of our legal support project. The project provided advice and funding to help individuals who had experienced discrimination in education, as well as gathering information about discrimination occurring in schools to understand whether enforcement action or policy work may be required.

Carolyn Osbourne of Steel and Shamash acted for the family.

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