A schoolboy's 'extreme' haircut saw him banned from the playground at break times.
Josiah Sharpe has the back and sides of his hair shaved in a ‘skin fade style’, which his mother, Danica, said helps hide his traction alopecia and gives him a “smart, tidy appearance” instead of an unruly afro.
But according to Kerry Rochester, executive headteacher at Summerhill Primary Academy, in Tipton, the youngster’s haircut goes against the school’s hair policy, which states that pupils must not have ‘hairstyles that will detract from learning’ - with cuts that fall below a grade two length strictly forbidden.
Until his hair grew back to a satisfactory length, the five-year-old lost his playtimes but Danica has hit out at the “harsh” treatment of her son, adding that the policy was "culturally biased” and “dictating a hair style that’s not suitable” for her son’s Afro-Caribbean locks – an accusation the school denies.
Danica, who is a hair stylist, said:
The hair policy lacks cultural awareness as a grade two haircut is not fair for Josiah’s type of hair and others from different racial backgrounds. When he first started there, I did try a grade two haircut but within three days, it had started to grow out and it looked a total mess. In the Afro-Caribbean community, if a boy’s hair is not long and plaited, or put in dreadlocks, we are expected to cut the hair very short for a smart tidy appearance. If you put a Caucasian grade two haircut and an Afro-Caribbean grade two haircut side by side, you will get two very different appearance which will become even more evident as it grows.
However Ms Rochester said the uniform and presentation policy was “inclusive for all children” at the school, adding that it “neither discriminates against an individual child or racial background”.
She continued: “The policy states ‘shaved heads or hairstyles that are deemed by the school to be extreme, are not acceptable’ and 'hair should be no shorter than ‘number two’ length."
“Unfortunately, Josiah's hair has been styled in line with what we understand to be the 'skin fade' style. His hair is tapered around the back and sides to what is known as ‘zero fade’ or ‘bald fade’."
“Therefore, the manner in which Josiah’s hair is styled, falls below the grade two length as set out in our policy."
“The school has tried to work with the family to fully explain the school rules to date and why the style is deemed to be extreme.”
Ms Rochester said that the school has took Mrs Sharpe’s complaint seriously and consulted Afro Caribbean hairdressers in order to reach the decisions made.
The family has had, in accordance with the school’s complaints policy, opportunities to state their concerns, both in writing and via a meeting. Responses have been provided to the family at each stage of the complaints process, and it’s unfortunate the family have taken this approach before the internal processes have been exhausted. We take our school policies and rules extremely seriously and impress the importance of both within our school community. Unfortunately, if the family continue to ignore the school rules then appropriate sanctions have to be made. Failure to implement the rules would be deemed unfair by the vast majority of parents and children who adhere to the school policy.