UK Tells Schools They Can’t Ban Afro Hairstyles

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They specified that the ban on discrimination includes natural Afro hairstyles, braids, cornrows, plaits and head coverings.

“I can’t believe some schools still think it is reasonable to police Afro hair — a huge part of our racial identity,” Ruby said in a message, adding that she was relieved that there was now detailed guidance on this. “I hope that this will prevent other children from experiencing what I did.”

Stephanie Cohen, the co-founder of the Halo Collective, a network fighting hair discrimination in Britain, said that hair had long been used as a racialized barrier. In the United States in the 19th century, for example, some churches hung combs next to their doors, and people could go in only if the comb could run through their hair.

“This translates into these policies,” she said, referring to modern day school uniform rules. “It’s a barrier to education.”

The equality commission said that in 2017 it had also assisted another British child, Chikayzea Flanders, who was told that his dreadlocks did not comply with the school’s uniform code and was isolated from his classmates. His dreadlocks, the commission said, were a tenet of his Rastafarian beliefs.

Starting in 2019, several American states banned hair discrimination, preventing employers and schools from targeting hairstyles in ways that penalize Black employees and students, and codifying the link between racism and hairstyle.

According to Ms. Williams and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Ruby’s family sued the school with the financial support of the commission for a breach of the 2010 Equality Act, arguing that their rule unfairly impacted Black children. In 2019, three years after Ruby was sent home for the first time, she received an out-of-court settlement of 8,500 pounds, currently about $9,800, from the school. The school, which is state-funded but run by the Church of England, did not accept liability, but it removed references to Afro hair from its uniform guidelines.


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