Dad takes legal action against school that banned son's dreadlocks

A father is taking legal action against a school for banning his 6-year-old son for his hairstyle.

Clinton Stanley of Apopka, Fla., filed a complaint against A Book’s Christian Academy for illegal racial discrimination “on behalf of my son and other Black children in my community,” he wrote in a Thursday blog post for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida.

In August, Stanley walked his 6-year-old son CJ to his first day at the private Christian school, the boy proudly wearing a tie and sporting dreadlocks which he had painstakingly grown for the previous two years. But when the family arrived, they were not allowed inside, because of the school dress code on hairstyles, which states, “All boys hair must be a tapered cut, off the collar and ears. There are to be no dreads, Mohawks, designs, unnatural color, or unnatural designs.”

“My son just got told he cannot attend school with his hair,” Stanley said in a cell phone video he shot outside the classroom. “If that’s not bias, I don’t know what is.” The dad asked administrators if he could braid CJ’s hair as an alternative and was told, “I don’t think so. It’s in our handbook, it has to be above the ear.”

The family’s video got millions of views on social media, with “absolutely infuriating” and “discriminatory” among the comments.

Stanley tells Yahoo Lifestyle that the school policy appears to target students of color. “What are they saying about kids with dreadlocks — that they’re not capable of learning or are unintelligent? It seems to say, ‘We don’t want black people in our school.'”

 

According to Stanley’s blog post, CJ asked at the age of 4 to grow his hair to resemble his “hero” godfather. His parents agreed to allow it if he learned how to spell 40 words — a goal CJ met in less than a week.

“I warned him that growing locs isn’t something to take lightly,” wrote Stanley. “The hairstyle has biblical and, in the Black community, significant cultural foundations. Beyond that, it would require the tedious routine of retwisting, washing, and conditioning. Could a 4-year-old have that kind of patience?”

Stanley would soon find out. Stanley kept his promise and let CJ start growing his hair. “The journey had its pains. He’s tender-headed, so he would cry while the loctitian yanked at his roots. But he endured the throbbing. He wanted it that badly,” he wrote. “CJ watched in wonder as his locs took shape by kindergarten. His hair represented the first tangible proof in his young life that hard work pays off. He was bursting with pride. And so was I.”

The school did not respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment. In August, school director John Book told Orlando news station WESH2, “You can see my school. It’s probably 95 percent black. Obviously, I’m not a racist.”

The administrative complaint filed by CJ’s parents, the ACLU and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund argues that “A Book’s policy and practice violates both the antidiscrimination provisions of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Florida law.” It also asks that the Florida Department of Education launch an investigation into A Book’s Christian Academy and suspend state scholarship funding until the school changes its policy “of preventing Black students from attending school due to their natural hair.”

The complaint also points to a now-deleted promotional video on the school website featuring a white boy whose hair extends below his ears.

“We know that locs are related to black culture and black identities, and policies that prohibit these types of hairstyles are often proxies for discrimination,” Patricia Okonta of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Additionally, the school’s policy lacks educational value so there’s no justification to uphold it. Both public and private schools are required to follow antidiscrimination laws.”

CJ now happily attends a public school that allows dreadlocks. “I want to make sure this doesn’t happen to any child again — that’s what my fight is about,” Stanley tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “This has to stop.”

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