A new guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) states that school or workplace rules banning certain hairstyles – such as braids, cornrows and plaits are likely unlawful if they don’t make exceptions on race.
There have been growing calls for legal protect for black children’s hair to stop an ‘epidemic’ of school exclusions.
In 2020, the EHRC funded a teenager’s court fight against her school after she was repeatedly sent home because of her hair.
Ruby Williams was told by teachers at Urswick school in Hackney, east London, that her naturally Afro-textured hair was against the uniform policy and could block other pupils from seeing the whiteboard.
A recent campaign also shed light on the generations of Britons who were forced to miss school picture day because of their hair.
Ruby’s own Year 11 yearbook was printed using a photo of her from Year 7, in which she had straight hair.
Since 2018, The Equality Advisory and Support Service has received calls reporting potential cases of hair discrimination.
Discrimination can range from describing someone’s hairstyle as inappropriate or exotic through to outright banning.
Jackie Killeen, chief regulator at the EHRC, said: ‘Discrimination based on hair can have serious and long-lasting consequences for victims and their families.
‘As Britain’s equality regulator, we want to put a stop to pupils being unfairly singled out for their appearance in schools.
‘That’s why, after working closely with experts and those directly affected, we are launching these practical resources to help school leaders understand the law in this area and prevent discrimination from happening.
‘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.’
Michelle De Leon, founder and CEO of World Afro Day, called the guidance ‘an important step towards ending hair discrimination’.