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ban on cornrows amounts to indirect race discrimination

17 June 2011

Following Judicial Review proceedings, the High Court has today ruled that a ban of the cornrows hairstyle at St Gregory's Catholic Science College in Harrow resulted in unlawful indirect discrimination.

A 13 year-old boy was refused a place at the school as a result of the hairstyle. The ban formed part of a wider policy which banned unconventional hairstyles and bandanas, jewellery etc in an attempt to tackle gang culture.

The ban itself was not unlawful, however, the school failed to take into account what impact the policy would have on the African-Caribbean population where cornrows can be viewed as part of a person’s cultural identity. The ruling reinforces the fact that a provision, criterion, or practice, even when applied equally, can amount to discrimination if it puts those of a particular protected characteristic at a disadvantage. Schools need to be aware that any such policies will need to be objectively justified in order to avoid falling foul of equality legislation.

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