Jamaica’s Supreme Court Rules To Ban Dreadlocks In School

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Jamaica High Court Rules To Ban Dreadlocks In School
The Virgo family poses for a portrait in 2019. (Diallo Dixon)

To say that my country is in an uproar over this ruling is an understatement! To say that we are embarrassed that our Supreme Court can rule to ban dreadlocks in school is another understatement.

August 1st is Jamaica’s Emancipation day! A day when the country is supposed to be celebrating freedom from the grips of European standards, norms, and rules. Yet here we are.

This is what was reported in the Washington Post today:
Jamaica’s high court ruled Friday that a school was within its rights to demand that a girl cut her dreadlocks to attend classes, a surprise decision that touched on issues of identity and one the most recognizable symbols of the island’s Rastafarian culture.

The ruling by the Supreme Court of Jamaica capped a two-year battle after the girl — then 5 years old — was told she must cut her dreadlocks for “hygiene” reasons to study at Kensington Primary School in a Kingston suburb.

A rights group, Jamaicans for Justice, had initially lent support to the family, saying the order for the girl to cut her dreadlocks amounted a denial of her freedom of expression and her access to education.

Others viewed the court battle as a stand against rules seen as discrimination against people who wear “natural” hair, including Rastafarians whose dreadlocks are part of their religious tradition. 

Jamaica High Court Rules To Ban Dreadlocks In School
The Virgo family poses for a portrait in 2019. (Diallo Dixon)

The Virgos say they do not identify as Rastafarian, but they say that wearing dreadlocks is an expression of their identity.

All Virgo family members wear that natural hairstyle, as do many Jamaicans who identify as Rastafarian.

Andrew Holness, Jamaica’s Primeminister recently tweeted a press release stating emphatically the following:

The government has always maintained that our children must not be discriminated against, nor deprived of their right to an education on the basis of their hairstyle.

But Jamaican’s are not consoled by his words, social media is on fire!

Koshens:

Beenie Man:

 

 
 
 
 
 
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How can we cultivate the minds of the youths, if we restrict them from being their true self ??? Nuh empowerment nuh in a dis!

A post shared by King Beenie Man (@kingbeenieman) on

Dale Elliot

 

 
 
 
 
 
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I am from a country where it is not only the colour of your skin but also the length and style of your hair. The irony of this fact is that it is that same hair (dreadlocks) plays an integral part in the national identity of the nation. The poster of Jamaica is bob marley with a a ganja splif. How is it possible that in 2020 the (people of power)which has so many flaws and corrupt individuals find time around a pandemic, a global recession, poverty, hunger, violence which plague the Jamaican society. To focus their time and energy on banning dreadlocks from schools? There are more important issues in the country right now for example the amount of politicians being investigated for corruption, the dolly house I see taking place in parliament, petrojam scandal, Ruel Reid scandal etc… than thinking theres a direct correlation with dreadlocks and learning in schools.

A post shared by Dale Elliott (@daleelliottjr) on

Then there is this? Take a listen!

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Here’s the original voice note between the parent and principal of the primary school. 😪

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So where do we go from here?

I think in this case we will wait for the written judgment to determine the basis of the ruling as stated in the Prime Minister’s press release.

There is still some confusion about how the ruling was handed down! However, the fact that it had to go to court in 2020 is something else!

Additionally, we would expect based on the fact that Jamaica should not discriminate according to hair, that the child should attend school as normal and. We also would expect that if discrimination was found then an appeal process can begin and legislation put in place to ensure this never happens again. 

Only time will tell!

On a positive note, the united outcry and rallying together in celebration of locs on the island based on this story proves that these old ideals will not be tolerated.

3 COMMENTS

  1. This article has false information. 1. Jamaica has a ‘Supreme Court’, not a ‘High Court’. 2. The headline says the court ruled to ban dreadlocks in schoolS. False. What is being reported is that the court ruled that *in this particular case*, *this particular school* did not violate *this particular child’s* constitutional rights by enforcing a grooming policy that prohibits dreadlocks. I strongly suspect that this is because the child is not Rastafarian, therefore her constitutional right to freedom of religion was not violated. 3. You spoke of the government possibly exercising “it’s right to overturn the ruling’. The Jamaican government has no such right. Jamaica, thank heaven, is not that much of a banana republic that the government can just step in and nullify court decisions. What the government can do is to initiate a constitutional amendment process so that the right to education cannot be taken away due to a hairstyle, or amend or pass legislation that makes this clear.

    • Nina, I appreciate your clarity on the “overturn the ruling” we have amended the paragraph. At this point, I hope that the child can remain in school and that something similar to the Crown Act is implemented so that people can avoid anything like this again.

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