A school uniform policy banning Afros and braids has been slammed as “racist” and “discriminatory”.
Eight schools in New Zealand have reportedly banned students from keeping an Afro hair and having braids or dreadlocks as part of a school uniform policy that is meant to keep students looking appropriate during school hours.
According to several reports, the policy has been described as a target at students of African descent and very discriminatory going as far as being an example of the “institutional racism” in New Zealand, as explained by Camille Nakhid, associate professor at the Auckland University of Technology while speaking to the local media Stuff.
The eight schools are high schools to colleges and include Auckland Grammar School, Hastings Boys’ High School and Macleans College. While three schools have promised to review the ban after being called out by parents and several individuals in their community, the other 5 chose to stay by their decision to keep the policy due to the “high standards and credibility that their schools have”.
Speaking to Stuff , Robert Sturch, principal of the Hastings Boys’ High School said the policy wasn’t discriminatory. “If a prospective student decided to go elsewhere because they thought it was, that’s their decision.”
He explained that the school has always had strict rules on how students had to keep their Afros which had never been a problem. Mr Sturch added that a prospective student had gone to another school because his dreadlocks did not meet the standards of the school.
Principal of Auckland Grammar, Tim O’Connor, said the rules were linked to the school’s “high standards”, but did not answer questions specific to Afros and braids.
“Any requests related to a young man’s religion or culture are addressed on a case by case basis,” he said.
Other schools with similar policies – Sacred Heart College and Macleans College in Auckland, and St John’s College in Hamilton – did not respond to requests for comment.
Ministry of Education deputy secretary Katrina Casey said school rules could not be in breach of the Human Rights Act.
A spokesperson for the Human Rights Commission said hairstyle is not one of the prohibited grounds for discrimination under the Act.
However, if schools restricted students from wearing their hair in a way that connected to their cultural, ethnic or religious identity, it could be grounds for discrimination.
The ban has since drawn the attention of the African Communities Forum Inc. represented by Christiner Chan who has described the policy as immoral and discriminatory, criminalising a child that has no control over how his hair looks.
Over the years, New Zealand has been in the news for the ban of several hairstyles in top choice schools that are mostly worn by students of African descent. The country has also faced issues of being against the Black community when the government passed a bill preventing foreigners from buying homes.
Due to its steady economy and low violence rate, New Zealand’s black community is growing steadily and they risk facing heightened institutional racism to prevent them from settling in well.