A mum who follows the Rastafarian faith has vowed to fight a school which wants her to cut her child’s dreadlocks.
Tuesday Flanders says the demand by Fulham Boys School (FBS) to cut 12-year-old Chikayzea’s hair is religious discrimination and an attack on her culture, and she vowed to fight it.
The school says it has a strict uniform and appearance policy, and is handling this case as a social issue rather than a religious one.
As a result, Chikayzea was taught in isolation on Monday (September 11) and faces the prospect of suspension from the Mund Street school.
Mrs Flanders says she tied her son’s hair up so that it did not breach policy on length, but received a call on his first day at school (Thursday September 7) saying that it must be cut.
She said: “He has dreadlocked hair because he is a Rastafarian.
“His hair does come down below his shoulder which is why I tied it up on his first day at school.
“They can’t expect me to cut my son’s hair. It’s our faith, it’s our religion, our culture.”
She hoped a meeting with headteacher Alun Ebenezer would iron out the problem, but said: “I explained that it’s our religion and culture and it’s not fashion for us, it’s not something we take lightly.
“But I was told at the end of the day they have a policy of no dreadlocks at the school.”
She said the whole episode was upsetting Chikayzea but added: “I don’t intend to cut my son’s hair.
“It’s my belief, my family’s belief. We have been Rastafarians for 30 to 40 years.
“No school should be able to dictate things like that. It can never be right. It’s a human right.
“This is a child that goes to school to learn, not for fashion.”
Mr Ebenezer described FBS as a “strict academic school” with “very distinctive ethos and culture” and pupils from different cultures and religions.
He says he draws attention to the school’s uniform and appearance policy when addressing parents who are considering the FBS for their children, and that it is available on its website.
He said: “We are very clear what the school is about. Boys have to conform to uniform and appearance policy.
“Boys are told to cut their hair or grow their hair.
“All boys need to follow and adhere to the school policy.”
Asked by getwestlondon about religious concerns raised by Mrs Flanders, Mr Ebenezer added: “At the moment we are treating this as a social issue. I have seen no tenets that you have to have dreadlocks.
“The kindest thing you can do for boys is have strict discipline and firm boundaries and everyone has to comply with that.”
'They identify who we are'
However, Mrs Flanders said: “This is religious discrimination. Everybody in my household has dreads.
"It’s not a style for us. Other people may wear dreadlocks for style but we do not.
"We wear this because of our culture. Dreadlocks identify us as a person and a people. They identify who we are.”
Mrs Flanders added her older son Amaechi, now 18, was never called up for his dreadlocks while he attended Chelsea Academy.
She has also set up a petition urging FBS to allow her son and his dreadlocks into school.
The petition has so far been signed by more than 160 people.
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