A Rastafarian schoolboy, who was threatened with suspension for refusing to cut his dreadlocks, can return to school without cutting his hair.
On his first day at Fulham Boys’ School in September 2017, Chikayzea Flanders was told to cut his dreadlocks or face suspension, as dreadlocked hair did not comply with the school’s uniform and appearance policy.
His mother, Tuesday Flanders, complained on the grounds that her son and family followed the Rastafarian religion and dreadlocked hair is a key element of the faith.
Supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, she initiated legal proceedings and the school has accepted that its uniform and appearance policy, alongside its failure to adequately respond to Flanders’ complaint, indirectly discriminated against Chikayzea Flanders and the family’s Rastafarian beliefs.
Chikayzea, who has attended a different school since September 2017, is now able to return to Fulham Boys’ School provided his hair is tied up or covered with a pre-agreed cloth.
The Right to Access Education and Express A Religious Belief
Under Article 2 of the first protocol of the Human Rights Act, the right to an effective education is protected.
Crucially, parents have a right to ensure their religious and philosophical beliefs are respected during their children’s education.
It states: “No person shall be denied a right to an education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.”
Following legal action, the school has agreed to make equality and diversity training available to improve awareness amongst staff and governors, review its uniform and appearance policy in line with legislation, and review its complaints policy.
The school has been directed to make a settlement to Tuesday Flanders and her son, and cover litigation costs.
Religious Beliefs Cannot be Forced to Change to Access Education
The Lion of Judah, a symbol of Rastafarianism Credit: Quince Media Pixabay
In a statement, Tuesdays 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… 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.
“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.”
David Isaac, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said “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.”
Featured image: Chikayzea Flanders and his mother, Tuesday Flanders. Credit: Good Morning Britain/ITV