A HEADTEACHER of a Kenton school has expressed his disappointment at the High Court's decision to rule that banning a child because of his West African style braids was unjustified.
The 13-year-old was just 12 when he was barred entry on his first day at St Gregory's Catholic Science College, in Kenton, in September 2009, because he had cornrows.
The youngster, who is of African-Caribbean orgin, was forced to attend another school where they accepted his hairstyle.
Mr Justice Collins ruled that the school’s hair policy - sometimes described a short back and sides – was not unlawful in itself, but the ban on cornrows was indirect discrimination under the 1976 Race Relations Act and the ban could not be justified.
But the judge made clear: "There is no question of this school being in any way racist. This was an honest mistake because the law in this regard is not entirely easy."
G's mother said the braids were of great importance to his cultural and racial identity.
But the school in Donnington Road, where Andy Prindiville is headteacher, was concerned it was located in an area where there is gang related gun and knife crime and that hairstyles could be "badges" of gang identity.
Speaking after the hearing, Mr Prindiville, said: "St Gregory’s Catholic Science College has always striven to ensure that our uniform policy, including that related to hair styles, is fair and equitable to the wide range of cultures which make up our school community and we value the contribution of every child regardless of ethnic or racial background.
"In September 2009, when G first attended St Gregory’s Catholic Science College, he was wearing cornrows. The school’s very long standing hairstyle policy, which had been in place since 1993, did not permit that hairstyle.
"St Gregory’s Catholic Science College is naturally disappointed by this decision of the High Court. St Gregory's is proud of its rich cultural and ethnic diversity and is run on the belief that everyone at the school is equal and made in the image of God."
The school’s governing body will now consider whether to apply to the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal against the judge’s decision.
Mr Prindiville added: "St Gregory’s Catholic Science College extends its best wishes to G and his mother, and hopes that, both now and in the future, G will continue to gain satisfaction and fulfilment from his education."
The family’s solicitor, Angela Jackman, said they "welcomed" the ruling, and added: "This is an important decision as it makes clear that non religious cultural and family practices associated with a particular race, fall within the protection of equalities legislation.
"For G wearing his hair in cornrows is a fundamental cultural practice which would have had no adverse impact upon the school. His wishes, however, were dismissed by the school without any consideration.
"Whilst schools face the challenges of maintaining good discipline, a community environment and their particular ethos, this case is a reminder that they must do so within the boundaries of the law."