Barbadian Parent says Private School is no “Dreadlock Holiday” – Facility replies it’s a cut above the rest

Samson did not cut his hair yet almost lost his head to Delilah, it was this part of the Bible which was a partial inspiration for Rastafarians who feel hair is strength and thus their wariness at removing their power as they see it. BLP’s MP Randolph Field implied in Parliament in 1983 that all Rastas should be beaten and jailed, which led to the hit and monarchy for that year with the still massive tune of “Ethiopian Rock.

Don’t know how many readers recall Ingrid Quarless? She was an activities director at Holiday Inn, now Grand Barbados on Aquatic Gap. She was not only one of the first women to wear braids in the 80’s – she also was the first to fight tooth & nail for her right to do so! Even the Barbados Workers’ Union went to bat stating such discrimination bordered on racism and they implied they were willing to make placards and get comfortable walking shoes? Ironically, Donna now sports a short ‘do and lives in the USA.

While I was at CBC, I learned how a Supervisor of mine was told in no uncertain terms by an erstwhile General Manager to get “…those millipedes out of your hair if you are presenting Business!” She had braids which were more tightly knit and coiled, she later left CBC yet stayed in the Public Sector and, while in a more prestigious post, was not only allowed but encouraged to celebrate her African heritage. That was in 2002, believe it or not…

There was also the time when an Asiatic girl was denied the privilege of using her hood as a Muslim girl at Queen’s College, in Muslim culture as she had her menarche she’s allowed to use a hood until married then a veil. That case either got close to court or not too far before QC capitulated and allowed the girl to recognise her culture and beliefs. I think this was in the 90’s?

Going back to late 70’s or early 80’s there was an accountant who was in a ‘Rock‘ band here and he had long hair as a result, so in his “day-job,” he was going to audit a client’s books and they refused him entry and complained to his Supervisors how he’s not “Professional” with his tresses and send along another accountant who’s ready to do real work! Phew!

If you go to Blue Pages or yellow Pages, you won’t find Hilltop – only in White pages and the number in the Directory is different from their sign too…

Do you feel there are still such situations? According to one lady who approached the Bajan Reporter, most definitely so;-

They said that I can’t go to that school because I have locs…but, I don’t want to cut my hair, Mommy.”

These are the words that came out of the mouth of my 5 year old on September 1st, 2011 after he and his father went to the orientation held at Hill Top Preparatory School, located in Welches, St.Michael on the island of Barbados.

In the attempt to be as clear, transparent and truthful as possible, I will recount the events that led up to this statement as best I could to shed some more clarity and light onto this situation.

My little boy, a Barbadian by birth, has lived and attended schools in both Barbados and the state of Florida in the United States. Never once has he had to cover or cut his hair. His hairstyle is one of choice, not based on religion, but nature. His hair naturally locs, as does his mother’s, his aunties’ and uncles’, grandmother’s and cousins’. If my child decided to cut his hair tomorrow, it would not be a big deal. After all…his hair is just that…hair.

During the last week in the last term of school for the 2010-2011 school year, his father went to Hill Top Prep and was given a form to fill out, along with the school policy. He was told that he would receive a call with a time to meet for an interview. He was also told that all school fees must be paid by or on the first day of school.

We (the parents) sat down and filled out the form. The only thing that the school policy has that speaks about hair is a line that states very clearly, “No fancy haircuts.” We ensured that all of the information was correct, and then proceeded to mentally make a list of things to do before sending him back to school, which included purchasing his uniform and getting him in to see his pediatrician. So far…so good.

One can almost say this Institute is sandwiched between Springer Memorial and George Lamming Primary, but this is closer to My Lord’s Hill

Up until the day of orientation, we had not heard anything back from the school. Being that we had gotten the form so late in the term, we thought that they probably did not have time to call us or they had accidentally disregarded it. Yet, by all means, we were sure that once our little boy made it to the orientation and we paid the fees, everything would be full steam ahead.

My son left home that day dressed in his new school uniform, extremely happy to be going back to school and meeting his new friends and classmates. However, upon arrival the Headmistress made it very clear that locs were not acceptable in Hill Top Preparatory School. She went on to say that HAD we come to the interview and HAD we read the school policy, we would have been aware of this fact.

At this time, my son’s father asked her if she could point out where it was stated in the school policy, as we must have overlooked it. After about five minutes of rummaging around and shifting paper, she showed him the same line quoted earlier. “No fancy haircuts.” She also went on to explain that another child “just like” our child, had come to the school with locs, yet he didn’t feel comfortable because he was “different” and a few weeks into the term, he wanted to cut his hair, which brought about some confusion. Confusion for who and why…I am not sure.

Please keep in mind that, up until now, she has not so much as looked at my child to say, “Good Morning.”
My son was pulled aside by his father, who, as best he could, calmly explained to our little boy, (who was growing more and more uneasy by the moment) that the Headmistress was implying that in order for him to attend Hill Top Prep, he would have to cut his hair. He asked him if he wanted to cut his hair. He received an emphatic and unapologetic “NO!” He asked one more time, just to be sure…and he received, again, the same response.

{PERSONAL FILE IMAGE OF NEIGHBOUR TO HILLTOPCamera angle representative to district in question so as to maintain Public Domain stance} The so-called ‘rejection’ by Hilltop created a firestorm of comments on facebook, where one young lady asked what happens if a Muslim boy wants to join in his traditional garb of skullcap, long shirt and sandals?

At this point, they turned around to tell the Headmistress, “Thanks, but no thanks…”, yet, she was no longer there. She had already turned her back and gone ahead in to the orientation to speak with the parents of children who did not have “fancy haircuts”, some of whom needed to find out any information they didn’t get because some of them, just like my child, didn’t get to set up an interview.

My child went home that day, sad and disheartened. As a mother, one of the worst things is to see your child when he feels that he is defeated. Needless to say, I was livid. The more I thought about it, the less sense it made.

For the past two days, I have asked around and found out that, while Hill Top has accepted children with locs in the past, they have also denied access to children in the past because of this same hairstyle. I want to make it abundantly clear that my child was refused entry into this school, not because the school was filled to capacity, nor because we missed the opportunity to have an interview, but because his hairstyle is, in the eyes of the people who run this primary school, seemingly unacceptable and inferior.

It amazes me…and yet it doesn’t…that in a country where the Afrikan descendants make up at least 85% of the population, a hairstyle as natural as locs is looked down upon. In 2008, this issue came to light when 5 students were barred from classes at the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic because they had a similar hairstyle. Again in 2008, on June 17th to be exact, I’Akobi Tacuma Hembadoon Maloney {is said to have} met his death while in the custody of police. The reason the police approached him in the first place was because they stereotyped him based on his hairstyle.

How can we as citizens in this country continuously turn away from blatant discrimination and victimization?

Some of you may read this and think, “So sad it had to happen this way, but she can simply find another school…” or “Better them than me.” And you may very well be right. Yet what we don’t realize, and we usually don’t until it is too late, is that the old adage “Today for me…Tomorrow for you” is still very real and relevant in circumstances just like this one.

In the Constitution of Barbados, which can be found online at it clearly states that (underProtection from discrimination on grounds of race, etc.) “No law shall make any provision that is discriminatory either of itself or in its effect; and no person shall be treated in a discriminatory manner by any person acting by virtue of any written law…”

It goes on to say, “the expressiondiscriminatorymeans affording different treatment to different persons attributable wholly or mainly to their respective descriptions by race, place of origin, political opinions, colour or creed whereby persons of one such description are subjected to disabilities or restrictions to which person of another such description are not made subject or are accorded (afforded) privileges or advantages which are not afforded to persons of another such description.

As I said earlier today in a conversation, this is not just an injustice to my child, yet all of those children who would have been his schoolmates, as they are being prevented from socializing and learning alongside someone who the Headmistress would define as “different.” In my opinion, this is where the cycle of victimization, discrimination and stereotyping begins. I also wonder where this subjectivity comes in to play.

What determines which children with locs are accepted? Is it gender, age, monetary donations from family?

It deeply troubles me that these are the sort of people who are in charge of raising our future. Something has to be done…sooner or later. I am in favor of the former.

Ayesha NuRa Delpeche

Before we published this item, a number of factors were brought into play – I wanted pictures of the school and I was glad I insisted (TIP: Always snap photos of places which may be Controversial from across the Street, technically that is Public Domain and you should not be stopped – unless contravening a Restraining Order), I found a severe irony (more anon)… Another thing, in an effort to get true balance I also called the school and spoke to the Principal, Ms Alicia Forde! I presume from dealing with many kinds of children over time, she has a very strong personality – even via the ‘phone… I asked her if I can take notes and quote her and she insisted as she wants the matter put to a rest sooner rather than later…

Look at the kids in the photo carefully, the boy has locs, yet this facility is right next door to Hilltop, oh oh!

The head teacher indicated the correct way to register a child is from December 2010 by no later than March 2011 for September this year, this makes sense so far. However, Ms Forde says she heard from {Jason, her words} Justin Sealy (the father) not until June, she said there is no room in the  5 Year Old Category but if there’s a cancellation she’d notify the parents – but she had to have a Birth Certificate to copy as well as an Immunisation Certificate plus two “Ping-Pong’s” or passport photos so she can have the child in Reserve.

Ms Forde stated she heard no more until Orientation when Father & Son appeared (I guess much like a Walk In at a Hair Salon?), but she says this was not standard procedure. The Principal asked the pair if they were already Interviewed and the Father indicated his ignorance of that qualification for Hilltop.

The Hilltop’s head teacher says witnesses were present while the father asked the son if he wanted his locs removed and the boy answered, “NAH!” {Ms Forde’s words, not mine Direct Quote} She said while the parent and child were discussing the matter she went to speak to workmen about renovations and when she returned they were gone… No application nor certification, nor any funds passed either set of hands and therefore as far she was concerned, technically? Nothing really happened…

She says the school’s rule clearly state ‘NO FANCY HAIRCUTS‘ but I did point out to her this is NOT a haircut in fact, it’s the Opposite! Ms Forde then admitted there were 3 girls who have locs but their parents had their hair texturised and held with ribbons. I asked the Principal if the boy had his like Arthur Holder, attorney and well-known Candidate of the BLP if he could attend, she said that would not be a problem but the 5 Year Old Category is and remains full!

One cannot even tell at this angle that Mr Holder sports locks, at one point Liz Thompson had Bongo Natties much to everyone’s shock and even Mia Mottley used to have Twisties when she began politicking almost two decades ago

Ms Forde also indicated she did not waste any time and sought legal advice for the situation, and her Attorney said she is in her rights as the school is a Private Institution and therefore she can make certain stipulations governing the facility.

What was very intriguing and so Ironic is that next door is an Edu-Tainment Centre where they have two Anime representations of Black Barbadian children and one of the kids is a boy… Sporting locs, well well well!

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10 Responses

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  1. Sounds like really bad public relations to me! It’s a pity that people cannot “emancipate themselves from mental slavery.” If you don’t want locs in your home, I guess you have that right. A private school should spell out its rules, interview applicants and settle any potential problems in the early, NOT like the series of events described in the article. I don’t have a problem with tidy hairstyles, be they locs, afros or frizzy 90’s era perms. Unfortunately, too many Bajans are still stuck in the 19th century and are profoundly uncomfortable with expressions of negritude, e.g. locs or other natural hairstyles. My opinion is that once the hair is CLEAN, TIDY and does not pose a hazard to the wearer or others, it’s cool with me. A fellow employee at a past workplace had locs that passed her knees, and management rightfully insisted that her hair be tied back. We were dealing with high speed copiers and there was a danger that her hair could get caught in the machinery. She was fine with that, once that danger was pointed out. But a primary school child… really, Hill Top?

  2. It seems that the parents did not follow protocol after they filled out the application form and there are many blanks from the parents position. It does not seem as if the application was returned in order for the headmistress and faculty to perform a face-to-face interview. Who notified them about orientation, if they were not interviewed? Also, was the 5 year old’s response mannerly? As we seem to forget that children should have manners and respect for adults. The child’s father says the child said no and the headmistress said he said “nah”. What condition is the child’s hair? Is it kempt or unkempt locs?
    The blog/article seems to have been written to stir up controversy about locs rather than the underlying basic factor, which is, that of not being able to follow basic instructions. Why then has the school allowed other students with locs regardless of their parents hairstyles?

  3. Hi Sharon;

    Very curious, since I listed the teacher’s perspective and what Hilltop expects – is that not balance? I listed precedents and their outcomes, why is a story which is left for readers to decide then considered as slanted? What the irony at the end? Am I to ignore the centre next door which seems to contravene the school? Both are private children’s facilities… Unless you’re an educator from the Welches area?

  4. Hi Gina – was flushing some Spam and removed your comment by mistake… Oops, mea culpa! Can you re-post?

  5. How I see it: I feel the mother is annoyed for her son, so she will defend no matter what. But the teacher also has to uphold her business, neither wants a compromise – just their way alone, so sadly this will go on and on! I don’t feel this can end well?

  6. I really do feel that this was dealt with very badly and as a result the issues here are getting fuzzied.

    this is my take on it. If the child’s father came to the school expecting to have his son start on that day, then the principal or her representative should have verified that their admissions procedures were adhered to. As far as I am concerned this should have been the only relevant issue at that time.

    Once that was clarified, it would then be left to the school to determine whether they would offer a place and so on.

    If the principal broached the topic of the locs as the element that initiates grounds for refusal, that, in my mind is discrimination. Unless she can prove that this hairstyle and reasons for not wearing it is clearly spelled out in the school rules, she should not refuse based on this alone. I find it interesting that she did not even offer the parents the chance to cover the child’s hair with a Tam, as in done in other institutions.

    We cannot discriminate in this country, private institution, public institution or otherwise based on a persons culture, belief, faith and so on. It is not only legally but also morally wrong.

    I have worn locs for the past ten years of my life,off and on. For me it is a hairstyle, and one that i am proud of, for me it is a personal choice.

    The institution should not place personal choices ahead of their institutional rules. I think this may have happened and they seemed to forget that if this entered a court of law, the school rules and admin procedures would be brought into question.

    It was said there are other little girls at the school with locs. What was the reason for their entry:
    1. Were all the admission procedures followed?
    2. Was the hairstyle brought into question?
    3. Was their faith an issue?
    4. Was their familial origin considered?

    All in all, the situation and the events leaves a very bad taste in the mouths of many, including myself. I think i have made my position clear here , albeit a little long winded, but discrimination of any form cannot be accepted and procedures, once informed, delivered and followed accurately should be respected. I don’t think the latter took place and unfortunately the former did.

  7. I am a sistah yet even I have standards, so the school must let in everyone no matter what? When you learn to drive you follow rules – hand signals and lights, if you pass? Then as you drive it’s indicators only! At school you speak properly, when you graduate? If you dig dialect dat is you bidniss lady! De principal was ON!

  8. Hi I’m currently going trough a situation similar to this, as I got a very unprofessional response from the principal as well. My daughter was refused entry in to school although she has a medical letter to wear braids for the balance of the term because the principal is saying keep her home he don’t allow braids she is in second year and exams is around the corner and I feel like she’s being discriminated against.

  9. You need to name names if this is to be acted on – please visit the part of my Website “Contact Us,” but to be fair why do you need a medical excuse for braids? What do the school’s rules say on the matter of braids? If you read this story – we make sure to list both sides of the issue. You may see it one way, but the Principal also has his side as well.

  10. Internalized racism people. Then let the children wear Afros. Will the school accept lower fees so parents can afford processed hair? Braids are what Africans have perfected over centuries. Really? Seriously? Are we still here? Neat and tidy ought to be the standard, C’mon.


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