Fear of Black Hair: Schools in New Zealand banning afros, braids among students

The politics of Black hair seem to stretch around the globe as schools in the country adopt a policy against styles natural to people of African descent

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While New York City is issuing a guidance to ban discrimination on the basis of hair, eight New Zealand schools on the other side of the world are doing just the opposite – banning Afros and braids, according to the country’s Stuff website.

One prospective student was turned away from attending one of the schools because his dreadlocks “did not meet the standards of the school,” the unidentified student told Stuff.

READ MORE: In New York, your natural hair is welcome thanks to new anti-discrimination policy

Experts are condemning the schools as racist and discriminatory, Stuff reports.

The policies are “immoral and discriminatory,” Christiner Chan of the African Communities Forum told Stuff. “It is like criminalizing a child that has no control over how his hair looks,” she said.

The policies amount to “institutional racism,” Camille Nakhid, associate professor at Auckland University of Technology, told the website. “It excludes anyone who doesn’t fit. Eurocentric or European model.”

The news organization reached out to the schools and some said they would reconsider their policies.

David Ferguson, headmaster of Westlake Boys’ High School, told Stuff that when he considered it, “the reference to Afros was outdated and would be removed.”

Principals at Timaru Christian School and Rosmini College in Auckland said they would think about reviewing their policies.

READ MORE: Parents outraged after letter suggests students get better hairstyles before holiday concert

Three schools – Sacred Heart College and Macleans College, both in Auckland, and St. John’s College in Hamilton – did not respond to Stuff.

One school was not as open to change.

Tim O’Connor, the principal of Auckland Grammar, told Stuff that the policy was tight to its “high standards.” He added, “Any requests related to a young man’s religion or culture are addressed on a case-by-case basis.”

Nahkid told Stuff that the “case-by-case” response does not wash with her.

“It’s a matter of power for a principal to say, ‘Come and talk to me,’ “ she said. “Why should the student have to talk to you? The student should know inherently that this is a safe place … to wear my hair in an Afro or braids.

Hairstyle is not one of the grounds for discrimination in New Zealand, Stuff reported.

READ MORE: Montreal Exposed: Steakhouse ordered to pay Black woman $14,000 in discrimination suit over hair