KINGSTON –– A school’s decision to refuse a three-year-old boy entry because of how his hair is groomed has come under heavy criticism by his parents and social media users who see it as blatant discrimination.
The boy, Zavier Assam, was registered at Hopefield Preparatory School in St Andrew, but his mother, Dr Penelope Amritt, told the Jamaica Observer that because she refused to cut his hair, the school’s vice principal (VP) has decided not to allow her son to attend classes.
When the Observer contacted the school for comment on the issue, the response was “no comment at this time”.
“In June I put in an application for Hopefield Preparatory School for my three children to attend. When I put in a picture of my three-year-old boy to attend, she [VP] said ‘he can’t come to the school with his hair like that, it has to be cut’,” she said.
“Over the summer I thought about it, whether I should or shouldn’t cut his hair. In the end I felt very strongly that I shouldn’t be forced to make a decision I wasn’t ready to make. I didn’t want to cut his hair and I felt it was discriminating against him and his gender,” Dr Amritt said.
“I have a 10-year-old girl, a five-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy. Both the five and three year old have almost exactly the same hair — just below their ears, curly and it is let out in a little afro. When she [VP] saw ‘Zaivi’ she said the reason she feels that boys should cut their hair is because it’s untidy and dirty,” Dr Amritt said.
On Tuesday when the boy turned up for orientation, Dr Amritt pointed out that the VP approached her with the same issue, saying if he was going to attend the school he needed to cut his hair.
“I said it’s my right as a mother to choose how I groom my child’s hair and you’re discriminating against him and any kind of discrimination in terms of gender, race, religion is wrong. She said ‘those are the rules and the rules are there to be followed; you have to follow the rules’. At one point she put her hands out towards me and she screwed up her face and said, ‘why would you want his hair like that anyway?’ I told her I’m not going to answer that question because the way in which you asked it told me that you don’t like his hair and that’s fine, that’s your personal preference, but it’s not for you to choose for me.”
Dr Amritt further stated that the VP asked her what she intended to do twice, to which she answered, “I honestly don’t know.” She said shortly after the VP gave her the cheque she had signed for payment of her son’s school fee and said “this is yours”.
“It was as if to say take your school fee back,” Dr Amritt said.
She told the Observer that she spoke to another parent at the school who has a very good relationship with the VP, however, she said when the parent gave her feedback she was told the VP was “very upset that the issue had gone public”.
“[He said] she’s so upset that she’s not going to allow him to come back to the school whether I do or don’t cut his hair, and she’s giving his space to someone else, so I’m not welcome,” Dr Amritt said, adding that as a result she had to leave her son at his old school, Fundaciones, while on her way to work yesterday morning.
Dr Amritt added: “Many people have asked why do I want to send him back there because they’re going to discriminate against him and make the environment bad for him, but discrimination is wrong and someone has to stand up and talk about it.”