Sat | Sep 19, 2020

Dreadlocked girl gets green light from Kensington

Published:Tuesday | August 4, 2020 | 12:26 AMNadine Wilson-Harris/Staff Reporter
Bishop Dr Alvin Bailey, chairman of the board of Kensington Primary School.
Bishop Dr Alvin Bailey, chairman of the board of Kensington Primary School.

The seven-year-old child whose dreadlocked hairstyle stoked a constitutional kerfuffle is expected to resume classes in September despite a court ruling that her rights were not breached when the school sought to block her enrolment.

Chairman of the Kensington Primary School board, Bishop Alvin Bailey, said the child, who was five at the time of the initial stand-off, still “has a place in school”.

“The child has been there all along from first grade on through the entire second grade and the child is expected to report to school in September when school reopens,” Bailey told The Gleaner on Monday night.

“From the very onset of this case, the child was never barred from school,” the bishop said.

But that narrative contrasts with the storyline of the parents, Dale and Sherine Virgo. The Supreme Court had granted an injunction for the child to attend school after Jamaicans for Justice filed a motion on behalf of the child and her parents in August 2018.

The Virgos’ daughter was initially allowed to attend summer classes at the institution for a few weeks prior to the August 29, 2018 official opening of school when her parents were given an ultimatum to remove her dreadlocks.

Mrs Virgo confirmed that the family was informed from the first week of July 2018, during orientation, that their daughter’s locks would need to be removed once school officially started. The child had no issue while attending summer school.

“I asked them what my option was and they said she could attend summer school, because summer school was pretty much the next day,” she told The Gleaner on Monday.

“Summer school was fine, but she said, it would have to come out before August 29,” Mrs Virgo said.

But the mother said she refused to remove her daughter’s locks when the slated date arrived, because that was part of the family’s identity. When asked to clarify whether her family were Rastafarians, she said, “It doesn’t matter.”

“I don’t walk around and ask people if they are Muslim, if they worship the devil, so it really doesn’t matter,” Mrs Virgo insisted.

“It’s our freedom of expression. It is how we identify ourselves. It is how everyone in my family wears their hair, so it doesn’t really matter why I do it.”

Administrators at Kensington, one of the top-performing schools in Portmore, St Catherine, had insisted that the wearing of dreadlocks was against its policy.

But the court ruled last Friday that the child’s constitutional rights were not breached when the school refused her acceptance and that her father, who was the first claimant in the case against Kensington Primary, had no standing.