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School agrees £8.5k settlement to pupil excluded over size of afro hair

A case funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has seen a pupil win a settlement from a school which excluded her over the size of her hair.

Ruby Williams attended the Urswick School, in Hackney, run by the London Diocesan Board for Schools. She has received an £8,500 settlement from it, although the board did not accept liability.

The case concerned the size of Ms Williams’ afro style hair, which the schools said was inconsistent with its uniform policy that hair must be of ‘a reasonable size’.

EHRC chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath said: “Ruby’s hair is an important part of who she is. We need to be able to trust our children’s schools to treat all students equally and help them reach their potential through education. Policies which single out children from particular ethnic groups are completely unacceptable.”

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She said the EHRC had agreed to fund the case as one of race discrimination on the basis Ms Williams was refused entry to, or sent home from, school on numerous occasions when wearing her hair naturally.

Alternatives which she tried damaged her hair and were time-consuming and expensive.

Her legal team argued that the policy was indirectly discriminatory because it put her and other mixed pupils at a particular disadvantage compared to others, and that the school could not show it was appropriate or necessary.

The EHRC said it had funded a similar case in 2017 when Chikayzea Flanders was isolated from classmates on his first day at Fulham Boys School and told that his dreadlocked hair did not comply with the school’s rules.

Mark Smulian

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