Schools Are Getting New Guidelines To Help End Hair Discrimination In The UK

“We want to put a stop to pupils being unfairly singled out for their appearance in schools.”

UK Schools Are Getting New Guidelines To Help End Hair Discrimination
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In new guidance shared by Britain’s human rights watchdog, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has stated that bans on Afro hairstyles in schools are “likely to be unlawful.” Published on Oct. 27, the EHRC guidance outlines that any school students with “natural Afro hairstyles, braids, cornrows, plaits, and head coverings” should be given exemptions from these types of uniform and appearance rules based on “racial grounds.”

“Race is a protected characteristic under the 2010 Equality Act, which means a person must not be discriminated against because of their hair or hairstyle if it is associated with their race or ethnicity,” the statement reads.

Supported by World Afro Day and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Race Equality in Education, the EHRC also published new resources to help prevent any hair-based discrimination in schools. These resources include a “decision-making tool to help school leaders to draft and review their policies,” an “animated video to raise awareness of indirect race discrimination in schools and what should be done to prevent it,” and “guidance on stopping hair discrimination, with practical examples for schools on when a policy may be discriminatory, based on real-life experiences.”

“Discrimination based on hair can have serious and long-lasting consequences for victims and their families,” Jackie Killeen, Chief Regulator at the EHRC, said in a statement. “Every child deserves to be celebrated for who they are and to thrive in school without having to worry about changing their appearance to suit a potentially discriminatory policy.”

In 2020, the EHRC funded the legal case of teenager Ruby Williams, who was sent home from The Urswick School in east London on multiple occasions due to her Afro hair. As per the BBC, Williams’ family took legal action against the school, and she later received £8,500 following an out-of-court settlement.

“I still can't believe what happened to me, but worse, I can't believe some schools still think it is reasonable to police Afro hair — a huge part of our racial identity,” Williams said of her case. “I hope that this will prevent other children from experiencing what I did.”