St Mary’s RC issues ultimatum to parent of dreadlocked girl
A SIX-YEAR-OLD girl is currently being barred from attending school unless she cuts or covers her dreadlocks.
The mother of the child, who is also dreadlocked, stated that her child has been unable to attend the St Mary’s Roman Catholic Primary School since school opened on Monday. The school has a policy, she informed, which states that Rastafarians are required to cover their hair, but neither she, nor her children belong to the Rastafarian religion.
The family and the school did not have an issue prior to this school year, because the Grade One pupil did not have dreadlocks when she entered the school.
However, according to the mother, because of severe eczema, the girl “would get breakouts in her hair from combing her hair, pulling them, using products.”
After trying methods to control her daughter’s eczema, the mother decided to dreadlock the girl’s hair.
“The way her hair was done it wasn’t even … noticed to be dreadlocked because it was very neatly done, always well groomed and taken care of,” she noted.
She said that it wasn’t until after a meeting during the last school term, in which the class teacher spoke about how Rastafarian children are supposed to cover their hair, that she approached the Principal to find out if there was an issue. This was because she felt that the statement by the class teacher had been directed towards her.
Apparently the Principal said that “she didn’t notice before it was dreadlocks that she (the child) had, and I would have to cover her hair.”
The explanation that the cover makes her daughter’s head hot, and that this would flare up the eczema, was seemingly not accepted.
The mother said she was given until this month (January) to have her daugther wear the cover to school every day.
“The first day of school,this Monday, she wore it to school, I took it off, I saw the Principal and I explained to her that she wore the hat this morning; she’s scratching her head. I even told her I can get a letter from her doctor stating that she has the eczema and wearing the hat would break out her eczema,” she recalled.
The mother said, following this, she was given the ultimatum of either cutting or covering the dreadlocks.
Besides health reasons, the woman identified that there are now other issues at play.
“It’s her natural hair, and she loves the fact that she has her long natural hair and she doesn’t have to do all these things to it. [Additionally], it would break her spirit too much now to have to cut off her hair just to go to school,” the mother lamented.
The daughter, who feels very sad, has apparently told her mother that she doesn’t want to cut her hair or take it out, “She’s says no, I love my hair, I don’t want to cut my hair, I rather go to another school.”
There is also the psychological effect that the issue is having on the six-yearold.
“She doesn’t want to go to school because these discussions were had in front of her, so she knows her hair is an issue,” the mother disclosed.
According to the woman, her 12-year-old daughter, who also wears locks, and who was present when the discussion was being had, asked her mother what was so bad about their hair that people were offended by it.
This older daughter attends the Mountain View Seventh Day Adventist Academy, and there had to be a meeting for her to be allowed to wear her dreadlocks.
She said, “It’s a really sensitive issue with my daughters not feeling like they’re accepted”, but noted that their peers, the other children, are fine with the dreadlocks.
“It’s extremely hard to have to tell them that this is something that they should be proud of when other people are making them feel like it’s something so disgusting,” she continued.
The mother said she spoke with two members of the Roman Catholic clergy — Father Peters and Father Mike — about the situation, who eventually told her that once her daughter is able to get a letter from a doctor explaining her condition, they would consider allowing her to wear her hair uncovered.
The Principal of the school, Eula Johnny, declined to comment.
“It breaks their spirit, it really does. I don’t think people understand how much this breaks a child’s spirit for somebody to say to them, you should have to cut your hair or you should put a hat over your head when you walk into the school,” the mother ended.