A former Fulham Boys School student has won a battle to keep his dreadlocked hair after he was forced to be taught in isolation on his first day of school.
In September last year Chikayzea Flanders was taken away from his classmates and told that his dreadlocks did not comply with the school's uniform and appearance policy - and must be cut off.
However, the young boy, who is part of a Rastafarian family who consider dreadlocks as a fundamental part of their beliefs, refused and chose to leave the free school in Mund Street one month later.
But his mother, Tuesday Flanders, did not stop there and the case almost appeared in the High Court after she expressed dissatisfaction over the school's response to claims of discrimination.
With an agreement being reached before a court hearing took place, the student, who now attends a nearby academy, will now receive a pay-out from his old school to cover litigation costs, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has confirmed.
Alun Ebenezer, headmaster of The Fulham Boys School, confirmed a complaint was made last year but said it will continue to enforce its uniform and appearance policy, adding that the school is for "boys from different backgrounds and cultures".
School ordered to pay out
The EHRC confirmed it agreed to fund the Flanders family's legal case against the school.
However, a spokesman added an agreement was made before a court hearing took place.
According to the commission, "both sides have accepted that the school’s enforcement of its uniform policy and ban on dreadlocks resulted in indirect discrimination".
It added that a county court had ordered The Fulham Boys School to pay Chikayzea and his mother a settlement and cover the litigation costs.
Getwestlondon first reported the ongoing row in September last year when Mrs Flanders first considered moving her son to a different school.
She previously described how putting him in "isolation every time he steps into school" was "absolutely wrong" and had begun to take an emotional toll on Chikayzea.
A petition supporting the family was signed by thousands of people and a tearful Mrs Flanders also appeared on This Morning after the school reportedly threatened to suspend Chikayzea, leaving viewers furious.
It has also been agreed that 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.
A governors' complaints resolution committee also recommended that The Fulham Boys School should provide equality and diversity training to staff, renew its uniform and appearance policy, review its complaints policy and ensure records of meetings are always noted.
In response, Mrs 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."
'Inflexible uniform policies'
David Isaac, chair of the EHRC added: "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."
What the school has to say
However, in response, headmaster of The Fulham Boys School, Alun Ebenezer said the school will continue to enforce its uniform and appearance policy.
He said: "Some of the comments we have seen are inaccurate.
"I can confirm we received a complaint last year about our uniform and appearance policy regarding a boy who is no longer at the school. It was dealt with through our published complaints procedure.
"I don't comment on individual cases but we continue to rigorously enforce our uniform and appearance policy to retain The Fulham Boys School distinctive ethos."
He added: "To me the story is about a school in the heart of Fulham for boys from all different backgrounds and cultures; 20% of our boys are from private schools who chose to come here, rubbing shoulders with children from the area's deprived areas."