A change.org petition has been set up to campaign against the uniform policy of Fulston Manor School in Kent, England. A young student was told to remove her braided extensions upon returning to school after the summer holidays. The hairstyle was considered to be against the school’s uniform policy. The policy posted on the school’s website states:
“All extremes of hairstyles are not permitted in school. Examples of the types of style considered inappropriate are dying in non-natural hair colours, contrasting colours, hair extensions, beading, braiding and cuts shorter than No. 2.”
The mother of the student, Leanne Sullivan; who set up the petition wrote:
With developments in hair products and styling techniques, more and more mixed race and black females are ceasing chemical treatment and straightening of their hair and are choosing to wear their hair in its natural form, in a range of styles. I believe these styles should be incorporated into Fulston Manor’s School Uniform Policy along with braids and braid extensions.
It seems stories like this are occurring worldwide. Recently a school in South Africa: Pretoria High School For Girls, was put under pressure to change its hair policy; which was believed to discriminate against Afro textured hair. The school was also accused of being racist towards black students, many of whom had accounts of direct racism from teachers. Here in the U.S, even the Army changed their dress code policy in relation to hair, especially the ban on braids and twists, as it was believed to discriminate against black women with natural, Afro-textured hair.
Unfortunately, it appears there is a long way to go before Afro textured hair and hairstyles are no longer considered “extreme” but simply a natural attribute and expression of African features. Schools are entitled to have their own dress codes and expect every student to comply. However, when forming these policies they perhaps should consider the effect such policies will have on students from all races and backgrounds. Kent is a predominately white county in England, so perhaps the policy was initially written with white students in mind. The headteacher: Alan Brookes, recently admitted that the policy has not been amended since 1977.
Black women and young girls have always felt pressured to straighten their hair, often resorting to chemical relaxers. Relaxers can damage the hair, stunt its growth and have even been linked to fibroids. It is in a quest to be accepted and taken seriously in a professional setting that has led to this pressure. Leanne Sullivan, told gal-dem.com that her daughter, Chyna, has been bullied at school for the way she looks. She had her hair relaxed in order for her to fit in, but this ended up damaging her hair.
In recent years, more black women have began to embrace their natural hair, teaching their daughters to do the same. However, this has been met with various challenges that have extended into the workplace, schools and universities. If an organisation desires to be fair to people from all backgrounds, they should demonstrate a reasonable amount of knowledge about the different groups of people within the organisation. Other schools in the same town as Fulston Mannor have not banned braids, and their students can still look professional and dress appropriately for school. So is such a policy necessary? It would have been a lot more difficult to wear my hair natural while in school, if it wasn’t for the option of getting it braided regularly.
The school is currently reviewing the policy with regard to braids and extensions but has not commented further. You can sign the petition here if you wish to support it.
Have you signed the petition? What do you think of the hair policy? Share your thoughts below in the comments.
The “Governors agreed this evening to remove all the previously stated examples of what might be seen to constitute an “extreme hairstyle” from the school’s uniform policy, leaving the decision to be taken by a single designated senior member of staff. ”
This is a victory for all black, mixed race and ethnic minority students country wide. I am a little saddened that in the Headteachers response, he has chosen to see this as a personal attack on himself. This campaign definitely was not a personal attack on any member of staff from Fulston Manor. I empathise that the headteacher has received some hate mail and negative commentary as did I, which was to be expected… However, the same way my daughter represents the school whilst in uniform, the deputy head who made the original comment to my daughter, represents the school as a whole when expressing his views during school time on school property. Whilst I commend the Headteacher for owning the responsibility of this incorrect policy on behalf of the school, as Head of the school as that is his role.
In summary, the policy “remaining unnoticed” for close to 40 years is not an acceptable reason for the inappropriate wording to remain. And this campaign should serve as a lesson to all schools that policies need to be thoroughly checked and revised at regular intervals. Also as a lesson to students and their parents, that you are free to challenge such policies in a positive way should you disagree with any clauses within them. I would urge parents to be as involved in their children’s education and school life as much as possible so policies such as these do not remain unnoticed for decades at a time. We have as much responsibility as the school to help provide an inclusive environment inside and outside of school for our children.
It just remains for me to say on behalf of Chyna and the rest of our family, Thank You all for your support in this campaign. I had no idea that I would gain more than a handful of signatures. Through our united voice, we changed something that will perhaps make a difference to many students lives and encourage our youngsters to embrace and celebrate their cultures in a positive way.
To read the letter from headteacher, check it out on change.org