In 2017, 12-year-old Chikayzea Flanders was told his long twisted locs wouldn’t fly with the Fulham Boys School dress code in West London.
In fact, the school demanded that he cut them or risk facing disciplinary action.
Floored by the school’s lack of knowledge of Black culture, Chikayzea’s mother, Tuesday Flanders, filed a formal complaint. She argued that the rules violated her son’s right to practice his family’s Rastafarian religious beliefs and were racially discriminatory.
"As parents we place our trust in schools and teachers to help mold our children's lives through education,” she said, “but that should never place restrictions on their identity or their ability to express their religious beliefs."
Schools, the military, and everyday workplaces worldwide have historically set rules that categorize Black hair textures and traditional styles as “unprofessional” and “unhygienic.”
While lawyers reviewed the stringent uniform policy, Chikayzea transferred to a school where he would be celebrated for his appearance and beliefs.
Fulham Boys School maintained that the policy was intended to “raise aspirations” and keep boys from being singled out.
Eventually, the school was forced to adjust its policies to more culturally sensitive ones and pay the family’s legal fees. But no matter the outcome, no one has the right to police our culture.