A photo of the child’s dreadlocks, as supplied by her mother.

The mother of a dreadlocked 6-year-old girl attending a government-assisted Catholic school has been told that she must prove that the child cannot cover her hair because of health reasons.

Otherwise, the child will have to cover or cut her dreadlocks, or continue her education elsewhere.

The case illustrates a years-old phenomenon in which many persons outside of the Rastafarian faith — including members of other religions, including Christians — are choosing to wear dreadlocks for fashion or cultural reasons.

The mother spoke to iWitness News Wednesday night, but asked that she or her daughter not be identified. 

She said that her daughter, who is in Grade 1 at the St. Mary’s Roman Catholic School in Kingstown, enrolled there in September 2017.

The mother said that when the girl enrolled at the school she did not have dreadlocks, but was dealing with severe eczema.

The child’s skin condition was flaring up as a result of the frequent combing of her hair, resulting in boils and redness to the scalp.

“So me trying to find a way to deal with her eczema, not combing her hair, not irritating it, I decided to let her wear dreadlocks because I could basically do her hair once a week and I can leave it like that and I wouldn’t have to comb it and pull it.”

The mother said that later in kindergarten she locked up the child’s hair and she went through the rest of the school year like that.

“The way her hair was done, it didn’t really look like typical dreadlock. It was always neatly combed and I don’t think they noticed it was dreadlocks.”

The mother said that when her daughter was in Grade 1, there was a meeting at the school in which it was mentioned that children who are Rastafarian are supposed to have their hair covered while at school.

“I felt that it was directed to me so I went to the principal and I said I heard this in a meeting. And though all my kids not Rastafarian I did this for health reasons to control her eczema and the principal said, ‘Well, I didn’t even realize it was dreadlocks she has, but she would have to cover her hair.’”

The mother told iWitness News that the principal told her that the school rules to which she signed agreement when she registered the child said that Rastafarians are supposed to cover their hair.

“I explained to her that I know what Rastafarian is, I, myself, I am not Rastafarian, my daughter is not Rastafarian, she wears dreadlocks.”

The mother said that she tried to abide by the school rules and gave her daughter a hat to wear to school.

“And as soon as she put it on, it started getting hot, she started itching. I explained this to the principal and she basically gave me until this January for her to cover her hair.”

The mother said that this past Monday, when the new school term began, she took her daughter to school with her hair covered. 

“Just walking from Tokyo going to school, she started itching, the back of her head started flaring up. I took off the hat.

“The principal saw me that morning taking her to class and she approached me and I explained to her that here is the hat, I tried to let her wear it, she is itching and she is not able to wear it throughout the day.

“It was starting to turn into an argument where she is telling me you sneaked her locks into the school and it is not because of any eczema that you covered her hair.

“At the end of it, her options were she either wears the hat or she has to take them out. Wear the hat or cut them,” the mother said.

The mother said she was not going to leave her daughter in school with her hair covered, knowing that it would affect her eczema.

“So, I left with her on Monday.”

She said she met with one of the priests who said he doesn’t understand why the mother doesn’t just cut the child’s hair because it is the school policy and everyone has to be uniform.

She said the priest further told her that if the school makes an exception for the student they have to make one for everyone else.

The mother said there was another meeting on Wednesday and the management of the school asked her to bring a note from the doctor explaining why she is unable to cover her hair.

“So she has not been in school since Monday. She went to school this morning for her report and that was it. She is not able to go to school until she has a letter from the doctor.”

She mother said she was aware when she registered the school that there was a policy on Rastafarians.

“I am not Rastafarian. Rastafarianism is a whole different religion. It is not even something I know enough about but I do have dreadlocks,” the mother said.

“It is not a religious thing.  It is just my natural hair and I choose not to put weaves and chemical in it. I just prefer to be as natural as possible and grow my natural hair like that.”

The mother said that there is a female student at the school, who is apparently Hindi, who is allowed to wear a red dot in the middle of her forehead.

“And that’s allowed in the school.”

The mother said that she went to the Ministry of Education, which advised her to attend the meeting with the school and see what agreement they can come to.

“First of all, it was a health issue, but now, my daughter is proud and loves the fact that she wears her natural hair and the way it would affect her if I have to cut her hair off as a little girl who loves her hair, who loves her locks, and it has become part of her identify now.

“What would it do to her if I am to cut her hair now because she has to go to school, because the principal wants her to ; not because she wants to or I want to or because I think it is best for her.”

Regarding the view that she can just send her daughter to a different school, the mother said, “If she is not allowed to [attend school without covering her hair], and I have to [transfer her], I have no choice, but, first of all, it would not be easy to get her into another school, to move her when she is already settled with her friends.

“She is not a health risk. She is not a risk to any of the other children, so why do I have to send her to another school? She has done absolutely nothing, so what reason I have to send her to another school?”

The mother says that whenever her daughter goes to school, her hair is always in a bun or ponytail and is styled neatly “in a way that even the principal said to me I didn’t even know it was dreadlocks”.

The mother said that she met with a different priest on Wednesday who told her that he was surprised at the child’s hair because when he heard of dreadlocks, the child’s hairstyle was not what he had expected. 

27 replies on “School tells 6-y-o girl to cover or cut dreadlocks or leave”

  1. Ms. Johnny is just unreasonable. Its 2019. There are rules and there are exceptions. A hat on a head of a child with eczema will cause irritation. The rules are for Rastafarians, which in itself in my opinion is discriminatory but that’s another story. The child isn’t and once her hair is combed neatly, what is the issue?

    My advice to the parent will be to move the child to avoid targetting by Petty Betty.

    1. Hastag Prince says:

      I would not move the child. I would sue the school. Get some signatures and a lawyer willing to plead the case free of charge on behalf of the innocent babygirl dear mother. It is time Vincentians stop sitting back and taking “unfair treatment” from those with a degree of authority who act like “gods” or “goddesses”. These people know you don’t have money to pay a lawyer to fight your cause, they know you will hold your tail between your legs and run away AND the Politicians who are in charge of theses Ministries don’t seem to afford representation when it is needed. “Fear no man because of position, face him and see an equal!” Stop it people – This is 2019!

  2. Policies are policies, the issue is whether or npr the school policies are reasonable or not. If orentsdonor want to abide by those rules she is free to ask for a transfer to another school. Remember his is a private religious instution.

    1. The school is NOT a private institution.

      …and if you want to be pedantic, her rule spoke to Rastafarians. Is the child one?

      1. To revise on what I said earlier , you are correct the child and family is not Rastafarians so that would solve that issue …the only question left to deal with is a matter of the rules of the institution and also something I didnt touch on which is now the most important will be a medical reason supported by a doctors or medical letter . …….My conclusion this is a very simple matter blowing out of proportion and can be swiftly with all parties sitting done to discuss , including doctors.
        if they cant the only how would be to involve the courts .

    2. 1. Unfortunately, the salary for half the teachers are paid from the public purse.
      2. Policies must be and appear to be unbiased. Therefore, if the offense is the braiding of the hair/ natural style then all braided style should be banned (one is an extension of the other) OR is the offense the length of the hair? In that case ALL long hair, whether braided or unbraided should be cut. OR is it perceived cleanliness/hygiene.. then all kids who do not wash their hair daily need to be removed from the school. Or are ALL students to be subjected to weekly dug tests for marijuana and other illegal drugs? Policies must be rational and be able to achieve a set of stated objectives. It will be interesting to be informed of the objectives of this policy.
      3. If it was another sector( not education) where the effects on the child would not be so detrimental, I would have agreed that the best option is to remove the child and diffuse the situation. However we are aware via empirical evidence that our schools are NOT created equal. This institution has proven that they are one of the few centres of academic excellence and it is worth ‘ fighting to have your child enrolled in this school and graduate from this prestigious institution. At the same time, no institution must sit on its laurels and be complacent. They must always examine and re-examine existing policies and determine their ‘soundness and rationalization in the best interest of their charges- the future leaders of SVG.We are now more informed and cannot simply implement dogmatism. take the good policies from our past and carry them into the future but leave the bad policies where the belong…IN THE PAST!

    3. TRUE………..but key questions . were such rules disclosed at beginning of acceptance…..is Rastafarian acknowledged as a religion by the law and isn’t freedom of religion part of the constitution ……….so that means discrimination lawsuit probably is warranted.
      But question one is the biggest but the constitution supersedes the contract if the contract breaks the law , I would believe …..correct me if I am wrong .

  3. This school OUGHT not to be involved in the education process.

    Clearly they themselves are not educated.

    How can this be a hindrance to discipline and learning?

    Stiffling the creativity if the nation that’s what they are doing…..

  4. This is unconstitutional. Children should be required to groom their hair. However, this doesn’t necessarily means cutting off all your hair. We cannot run our school system like traditional military establishments. Modern military and police forces are more tolerant of persons with dreads and long facial hair. Both the British and American militaries have accepted the Seikhs who traditionally wear long hair on their heads and long facial hair.

    Many serving Government Ministers and public officials in the Caribbean wear dreads. You cannot deny a black man something that is inherently part of his culture. A black persons with well groom dreads is one of sexiest and adorable human beings.

    Our Constitution talks about Freedom of Choice, Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Concience. These are inelianable rights meaning they cannot be revoked or tampered with. Even prisoners have rights and can wear their hair as they see fit providing it is properly groom. The schools position would not be able to stand up in a court of law.

  5. As the mother said: > “She is not a health risk. She is not a risk to any of the other children, so why do I have to send her to another school? She has done absolutely nothing, so what reason I have to send her to another school?”

    Yes; I agree that a doctor’s note confirming the severity and uncomfortable feeling due to the eczema should settle this matter. Many adults are so blinded in their fight for power that through the entire ordeal the real victim the child and her physiological consequences are being overlooked.

    People, teachers, priest, professionals and parents….. Please; allow our children to live their innocence. Believe me, if you all do not make it an issue, the children will not. The child does not have infectious disease, just ensure her comfort. PLEASE she is just a ‘CHILD’

  6. It really does amaze me that in 2019 we are still facing what comes over as flagrant discrimination. It borders on religious discrimination but in this case as the mother says the child is not Rastafarian; and if she were this would be just as bad if not worst.
    Does the school tell children who may wear their hair in an unnatural state, i.e. chemically processed that this hair should be covered?
    How long are we to continue this backward self hatred.
    Most importantly does the Ministry of Education not have clear guideline on this issue?

  7. He we go again. Rastas are still discriminated against in SVG. The Christian community still look at the locks as dirty and unhealthy,
    Why not ask a child with braided extension to cover their hair. The locks is as healthy as any other hairstyle and this child should be allowed to wear her hair whether it’s covered or uncovered.
    This should be challenged in the court of law and not at your PTA meeting.
    And where are the Rastafarian community in defense of the youth. Getup, standup my brethren and sisteren.

  8. ” it would not be easy to get her into another school, to move her when she is already settled with her friends. ” Really!!! She goes to school to be with her friends….how that of great importance. The problem with this issue is that this is another situation where people always want to break the rules. Too many people want to impose their own way on things, well it is not your school. It does not matter how outdated or stupid you find it. You signed on to it. Clearly this is just a style thing so why not just plait them and avoid the stress? Will that inflame the eczema? Own your responsibility.

  9. Good hair means curls and waves (no)
    Bad hair means you look like a slave (no)
    At the turn of the century
    It’s time for us to redefine who we be
    You can shave it off like a South African beauty
    Or get in on lock like Bob Marley
    You can rock it straight like Oprah Winfrey
    If it’s not what’s on your head, it’s what’s underneath, and say
    Hey (hey)
    I am not my hair
    I am not this skin
    I am not your expectations, no (hey)
    I am not my hair
    I am not this skin
    I am the soul that lives within
    Who cares if you don’t like that?

    India Arie.

    1. lmao, good question but have you been following the news about thousands of gay priest lol….so it shouldnt be a problem thats where they exist

  10. Leave the kid and her hair alone. No one is being hurt by her dreadlocks. Like your name, your hair is a part of your identity . Let the child be!

  11. What a joke, the teachers must be jealous of the kid. What a total nonsense. They are just keeping the kids back. The kids are not allowed to develop individuality, they are not allowed to be themselves. kids have unique personalities and style. This is dumb and backward just like the dumb and backward uniforms. So stupid.

  12. Hastag Prince says:

    This is soooo wrong!!! It cleary shows utter discrimination and a denial of an innocent child the right to a basic education. The child’s hair is well kept, does not carry lice, seems to be a child of good deportment. Why is the school wrangling on this? The hair-style is to the well-being of the child’s health, it is not for religious purposes. Their was no intent to create or observe a style that is against the school rules and as was said, if it was not initially recognized as a Rastafarian hair-style, it promotes the fact that there was no intent to defraud or mislead the school. LEAVE THE CHILD ALONE AND LET HER LEARN MY “CHRISTIAN” BRETHREN!!!

  13. School rules are school rules. It doesn’t matter about what you think is right or wrong. Once you sign that agreement, you are agreeing to ALL school policies. The mother went and, knowing its against the school rules, without informing the school authorities BEFOREHAND, locked the girl’s hair. Then she, feeling guilty because she KNEW it was against the current school policy, went to the principal AFTER the teacher’s were speaking of rules regarding hair. No one accused her child outright. If there is a medical issue why she needs to lock the child’s hair, COMMUNICATION needed to be present between parent and principal, BEFORE any action is taken. The management asked her for a medical certificate, and until now, it seems, she hasn’t produced one. However, she is here in the court of public opinion, giving the impression of discrimination. Why is she, and some of you, dragging the rastafarian community into this, beats me, as I am a rasta myself. The child is not rastafarian. It has nothing to do with rastafarianism. Stop piggybacking off other’s issues’ to bolster your own unreasonable quarrel.

  14. Why don’t y’all petition the police force to allow rasta hair in? how come no one speaks of that? but y’all beating down on a school for enforcing its own rules. Nobody beating down on the police force for enforcing the no rasta policy. Nobody crying discrimination about that. Hypocritical people. If she don’t want to abide by the rules, or show a medical note from the doc, a transfer is easy and simple.

    1. This is the nth backward ruling for SVG. No wonder SVG people can’t see that they are being oppressed. That they are treated a cattle. And there is no unity among the people. Everyone is looking to outdo their neighbor. When out of the ordinary things people just sit around laughing and running their mouth. Indeed why can’t a Rasta be a police? Well I guess it is that Rastas don’t believe in Babylon. But this ruling against the kid and her parents is stupid. if the kid had a shaven head without all that beautiful lush hair, what would that have been different?

  15. I just have questions: How does the vestiges of colonialism still shackle us? Why is there such a stigma still attached to dreadlocks? Why are Rastafarians even still obligated to cover their hair? Why does that rule even exist in the first place, is it such a threat to Catholicism? Why not update those antiquated rules and get on with it? In this day and age why is a child not encouraged to be proud of the way that her natural hair grows from her head? Why aren’t they concerned about chemically treated hair? On top of all that, there is a fucking health issue!

    This mother should fight for all of the little girls out there who want to be proud of themselves and their identity. I definitely support her cause.

  16. I really don’t understand why our people are always trying to please and join the white man. Woman take your child out of that Roman Catholic School. […] Christianity and Catholicism are to the worse religions on the face of Earth. Just look at their history. As Jesus would say, “GIVE UNTO ROMAN THAT BELONGS TO ROAM. COME OUT.’ SHE NEEDS TO GET SHE AND HER CHILD AND “COME OUT FROM AMONG THEM. NO HONORABLE BLACK PERSON SHOULD BE CAUGHT DEAD IN A CHRISTIAN OR CATHOLIC CHURCH OR SCHOOL.

  17. This looks the same as the case of the autistic boy whose mother was made to apologize and was laughed at by the students.

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