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Supreme Court sides with Portmore school on dreadlocks ban

There has been widespread outrage among Jamaicans after the Supreme Court on Friday (July 31) ruled that the Kensington Primary School did not breach the rights of a five-year-old girl, whose parents were asked to cut her dreadlocs in order for her to remain enrolled at the educational institution.

Initially, the family was told that a ruling would be provided on January 27 but due to a court back log, later coupled with the coronavirus pandemic,  the judgement was  handed down hours prior to the start of the Emancipation holiday weekend.

Reasons for the judgement, which was handed down at around 2:30 p.m by the court, were not communicated though it is understood that the judgement was prepared by Justice Sonia Bertram-Linton.

Isat Buchanan who represented the family in the matter told The Den that no written judgement was made available on the matter, as it was communicated that the document was being proofread.

Despite the lack of a written judgement, the latest ruling by the court means that the injunction which allowed the girl to remain at the institution was no longer in effect.

The Den spoke to the father of the girl, who is now going into the third grade, and he revealed that the family was considering exploring other options, including homeschooling, a likely possibility, given recent developments like the on-going pandemic.

Dale Virgo further shared with The Den that the ruling was disappointing but noted that he and his wife, Sherine Virgo, would continue to pursue the matter in the local court system.

According to Buchanan , the family’s attorney-at-law, once the written judgement is issued and reviewed he will be taking the next step,  which is bringing the case to the Court of Appeals.

Buchanan said the lack of a written judgement means that no one could say definitively on what grounds the court came to its conclusion but noted that the matter in its entirety was a “attack on Afro identity”.

The attorney-at-law went on to say that hair texture in any form, whether it is locks or otherwise, doesn’t hinder learning.

“If that prevents you from learning we are in a sad place – it is unacceptable,” Buchanan told The Den.

Buchanan said he found it most offensive that any school board would legislate such rules that would deny access on the basis of  an afro-textured hairstyle.

The wider public seemed to agree with the lawyer, with many Jamaicans taking to social media platforms to  express shock at the court’s ruling.

Jamaicans were even more alarmed given the pending public holiday, which represents the liberation of enslaved people and the current social climate which is more sensitive to different forms of racism and discrimination, including the racial politics surrounding Afro-textured hair.

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