‘It Is a Sad Day’: Court Decides Jamaican Schools Can Legally Ban Locs

On Friday, a high court in Jamaica ruled that schools have the right to ban students with locs from attending classes.

The decision comes as the two-year legal battle surrounding whether Kensington Primary School could require a then-5-year-old girl cut her locs before attending classes comes to a close. The school claimed the girl had to cut her locks for reasons related to “hygiene,” and the Supreme Court of Jamaica has decided the school was within its rights to do so.

The panel of judges, which included Justices Sonia Bertram-Linton, Evan Brown, and Nicole Simmons, decided the school had not violated the girl’s constitutional rights by requiring her to cut her locs.

The girl’s parents, Dale and Sherine Virgo, also wear locs.

Sherine Virgo refuses to cut her daughter’s hair and says she will transfer her to a different school if Kensignton continues to press the issue.

“I will not be cutting my daughter’s hair,” she said. “If they give me that ultimatum again, I will be moving her.” The girl, who is now 7, had been temporarily allowed to attend the school with her locks following an injunction by the Ministry of Education. According to her mother, the girl performed exceptionally well at the high-ranking school and was looking forward to moving up to the third grade.

Sherine Virgo. (Photo: Jamaica Gleaner screenshot)

Recognized as a symbol of Rastafarian culture on the island, the girl’s father said the court’s decision to allow schools to ban locs was an example of “systemic racism.”

“It is a most unfortunate day for Black people and for Rastafarian people in Jamaica,” said the family’s attorney, Isat Buchanan.

Although the Virgos say they don’t identify as Rastafarian, they view wearing locs as an expression of self-identity. All members of the family wear the hairstyle.

Dale Virgo found the court ruling especially troubling in the wake of the worldwide racial reckoning with race. “It’s so weird that right now in the current climate of the world, in 2020 we are having protests, and Black people are fed up,” he said.

“I will not be putting any creamy crack in her hair. Her hair will continue to stay the same,” Sherine Virgo said. She also hinted at potentially homeschooling her daughter in the future. The family and their attorney maintain that the court decision violates the girl’s constitutional right to freedom of expression

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