The mother of a 13-year-old boy who won the right to return to a school after teachers told him to cut off his dreadlocks has said she launched legal action to protect other children from discrimination.
Tuesday Flanders took Fulham Boys School to court after her son Chikayzea was told he would be suspended unless he changed his hairstyle, as it violated uniform policy.
Flanders said the move was an attack on the family’s Rastafarian religion, as the hairstyle is symbolic of their culture and belief.
She began legal proceedings, after which the school reached an agreement with the family and said Chikayzea would be welcome to return, provided he tied up his hair.
“I’m a bit overwhelmed at the moment, it was a hard fight but it’s good that we got the outcome we wanted,” Flanders told HuffPost UK.
“This wasn’t about winning or taking the school to court.
“It was about my son and other young boys or girls, who have been or will be persecuted because of their hair or the colour of their skin.”
Fulham Boys School was ordered to pay Chikayzea and his mother a settlement and cover their litigation costs, following the agreement at County Court this week.
The teenager has since moved schools, to nearby Hurlingham Academy.
Flanders added: “I didn’t want my son’s face splashed all over the paper. It’s not right that parents have to go to this sort of length to get justice.”
Education lawyer Carolyn Osborne, who represented the family, told HuffPost UK school policies “must have measures to accommodate cultural and religious variances”.
“It’s in Fulham Boys school’s policy to accommodate long hair but, for some reason, they failed to acknowledge Chikayzea dreadlocks as part of his religious commitment,” she said.
“Uniform policy is about engendering a sense of equality and commitment.”
David Isaac, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which helped fund the family’s legal battle, said: “We are pleased that the school has acknowledged their failings in this instance and has agreed to revise its policies.”
However Alun Ebenezer, headmaster of Fulham Boys School, suggested that the school was not intending to change its rules.
He said: “The school will continue to enforce its uniform and appearance policy as a necessary and core part of its inclusive ethos.
“There was no ruling on the acceptability of dreadlocks, no ruling governing the pupil’s return to the school and no judgement made on the school’s enforcement of its policies.”
“Reports otherwise are inaccurate,” he added.
Last year, the school advised Flanders that it had a ‘strict’ uniform policy, which Chikayzea’s dreadlocks were in breach of, and advised that he would be taught in isolation until his hair was cut.
Flanders made an internal complaint to the school, arguing that the policy was discriminatory, before eventually removing her son altogether.