Tue | Sep 29, 2020

Schools court dreadlocked girl

Published:Monday | August 3, 2020 | 12:23 AM
Sherine Virgo and her husband, Dale Virgo, outside the Supreme Court in Kingston on Friday, July 31.
Sherine Virgo and her husband, Dale Virgo, outside the Supreme Court in Kingston on Friday, July 31.

Principals have been reaching out to the parents of a dreadlocked schoolgirl who is at the centre of a two-year dispute stoked by a culture clash over school rules and rights to a hairstyle.

The parents of the seven-year-old Kensington Primary student say they are uncertain whether their daughter will have a place at the school in the new academic year.

Speaking with The Gleaner on Sunday, the family said that there was no clear path to the September 7 resumption of school.

“I am not sure what’s going to happen. First, we will have to find out from the school if she still has a place there,” Sherine Virgo, mother of the child, says.

Last Friday, the family was left disappointed after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the school in a lawsuit that rested on a challenge to administrators’ right to bar the dreadlocked girl from attending school.

The written judgment is still outstanding.

There was controversy two years ago following reports that the then five-year-old was initially accepted to the St Catherine-based school but later told that her locks would have to be cut.

The family filed a claim in 2018 arguing that the school’s policy against the hairstyle was in breach of constitutional rights.

During that time, they had secured an injunction from the courts prohibiting the school from barring the child.

Dale Virgo, the child’s father, said on Sunday that despite the troubles, he was feeling positive and vowed to continue to fight.

“I feel encouraged, initially. When the situation occurred, we were getting support, but not what we were expecting. But now, we’re really getting the support,” he said.

People’s National Party Spokesperson on Justice Donna Scott-Mottley has put the blame at the feet of Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who only gave up substantive responsibility for the education portfolio last month – after nearly 18 months. She said he had adequate time during his incumbency to quash the dispute before it was heard in court.

On Sunday, the National Parent-Teacher Association of Jamaica called on the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information to issue an immediate directive to all schools to cease discrimination and refusal of entry on those grounds.

The association wants amendments to the ministry’s Dress and Grooming Policy to reflect the modern era.

The Jamaica Progressive Party has also raised concerns in the wake of the ruling, calling on parliamentarians to legislate a fix.

“That is an asinine stance because hygiene has nothing to do with your hairstyle. Hygiene is a universal thing, whether you wear your hair in locks or not,” said Gilbert Edwards, president of the party.