A newly enacted law in New York state bans discrimination against natural hair, but that’s not stopping more than a dozen New York City Catholic schools from continuing the biased practice when it comes to their male students.
According to The New York Daily News, Catholic Schools claim exemption from city and state laws because they are religious institutions giving them the legal space to pretty much as they please. Further, many of them view natural hairstyles worn mostly by Black students, like braids or cornrows, as a fad or trend.
“Nothing in this article shall … apply to private, religious or denominational educational institutions,” reads a caveat in New York State’s Dignity for All Students Act, and New York City Human Rights law also exempt any “religious corporation incorporated under the education law,” according to The Daily News.
The schools are able to impose whatever restrictions they wish because of these legal loopholes, David Bloomfield, professor of education law at Brooklyn College and CUNY Graduate Center, told the newspaper.
“They’re just exempted because they’re religious institutions and can set whatever rules of decorum they wish, no matter how discriminatory or racist,” Bloomfield added.
The ban on braids was first highlighted by The Daily News when Lavona Batts of Queens was told to take her 9-year-old son’s cornrows out or withdraw from Immaculate Conception Catholic Academy in Queens, NY. Batts sued the school, citing the city and state laws.
That matter has yet to be resolved, however, Assemblywoman Tremaine Wright (D–Brooklyn), who helped draft the state’s anti-discriminatory, Crown Act, is trying to appeal to New York’s Archdiocese, which supervises Catholic schools in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island, to get involved in the case.
“It makes me very uneasy that the (New York) Archdiocese is not going to step in and encourage all of their schools to be compliant with state law,” Wright told The Daily News.
T.J. McCormack, a spokesman for the Archdiocese, contends that any parent who agrees to send their child to any NYC Catholic school agrees to “adhere to the terms of the school’s handbook, Catholic School, which will include guidelines on hair, wardrobe and personal conduct.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio both called the school’s ban “unacceptable” and are looking into further action.
“For much of our nation’s history, people of color — particularly women — have been marginalized and discriminated against simply because of their hairstyle or texture,” said Gov. Cuomo in a statement about the legislation.
“By signing this bill into law, we are taking an important step toward correcting that history and ensuring people of color are protected from all forms of discrimination.”