“The schoolboy, 13, was refused entry to St Gregory’s Catholic Science College in Kenton, Harrow, north London, because of his hairstyle, it was claimed.The teenager, who can only be known as “G” for legal reasons, suffered a “major blow to his self esteem” after being told he was excluded on his first day of class. The popular West African style of braiding along the scalp is prohibited for boys under the school’s strict uniform and hair policy. School officials argued the hairstyles could be used by pupils as “badges” of gang membership. But on Tuesday, the High Court, sitting in London, heard the decision was “unlawful” and breached race and sex discrimination laws, a claim denied by the school. Girls at the school, identified by the government as one of the best performing in the country, are allowed to wear cornrows. The schoolboy, who is of African-Caribbean origin, and his mother asked Mr Justice Collins to overturn the school’s decision, taken in September 2009, which forced him to attend another school. The teenager, still wearing the cornrows he has worn since infancy, attended court on Tuesday with his mother. David Wolfe QC, representing the family, told the court that the boy had always worn his hair in cornrows, which reached to the top of his collar, as part of a family tradition. The boy’s mother, who are from north west London, said in a statement to the court that the braids were “of great importance to his cultural and racial identity”. She said her son, 12 at the time, was in high spirits about his first day at secondary school but that being rejected minutes after arriving “was a major blow to his self-esteem”. The court heard the  hairstyles could be “badges” of gang identity, they added. wearing them would make efforts to ban other styles, such as the skinhead cut popular with right-wing extremists, more difficult.… The case continues”.

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In case you missed it the story above are excerpts lifted from a popular London Daily newspaper, one of the many that made the rounds recently.

Tragic is the word that comes to us. Well past the first decade of the 21st century issues surrounding ethnic minority hair, hair types and hair styles are still as misunderstood, misrepresented and in some instances feared as in the dark days of slavery. Followers of our blog would have read our piece on the ROOTS OF BLACK HAIR, and this story underlies and perhaps collaborates our position in that blog.

Cornrows are merely a style to groom the hair. Note the Key word. Hair.  The cornrow style cuts across race, gender and religion.  Like other hair styles such as hairdressing, barbering, etc, the sole intention is to groom and tidy up an otherwise unkempt head of hair. Why then should cornrow be picked out as unsuitable for this particular school?

We note that the mother of the child argues that her son’s hair style were “of great importance to his cultural and racial identity”. True. However, it is noteworthy, that  as a Braiding Academy and a Natural Hair Institute  we are experiencing  an increasing interest for our natural hair grooming technique from  middle to upper class Caucasian, Asian and certainly not ethnic minority groups. Therefore her submissions in court may be more potent if she argues that her son is being excluded from school  for wearing a hair style  not incongruous but indeed similar to any styles for exactly what it is , a hair style. Peroid!! As styles, go for example:  crew cut, Mohican, short back and sides (you can add any number of styles you can think of). Nothing to do with sex, race or gender.

The backbone of the school’s position where  the school argues that cornrows replicate gangland insignia does not appear well thought out. Consider that accepted role models such as David Beckham, Bo Derek, Christiana Aguilera, Kim Kardashian, Alicia Keys,  Cheryl Cole, David James, Kanu Nwankwo, 50 cents, Beyonce, Snoop Dogg  to mention a few have at one time or the other worn cornrows or adopted cornrows as their  style of choice must mean they are gangland warlords!!!. We do not think so.

Join the debate. Our position?   It dangerous and serves no purpose to fashion policies from a distant position, aloofness even. Deliberately excluding a child from school on the basis of the style on their head not the content in their head i.e, academic capabilities is at best dubious. More Controversial where the reasons for that exclusion are challenged and struggle to stand up in court. There lies the Twist in the Cornrow tale.


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