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The BBC's Lizo Mzimba
"Dreadlocked boy says he should not be forced to change his looks"
 real 56k

Thursday, 21 December, 2000, 14:26 GMT
Dreadlock ban 'violates rights'
Sanchez Palmer
Sanchez Palmer has never had his hair cut
The mother of a boy excluded for refusing to cut off his dreadlocks has said she will use the Human Rights Act to force her son's school to take him back.

Sanchez Palmer, 11, whose father is a Rastafarian, has always worn the religious movement's traditional hairstyle.

Dreadlocks are formed by allowing the hair to grow unchecked until it forms long spirals.

But the headteacher of his Catholic school, Brother Francis Patterson, expelled Sanchez for violating the school's discipline and dress code which forbids boys from having long hair.


He may well want to return to his Rastafarian roots but that is not for us to promote as a Catholic school

Brother Francis Patterson, headteacher

Sanchez's mother, Karen Palmer, accused the head of racially discriminating against her son.

She said white boys at the school had crewcuts which were also against the rules but no action had been taken against them.

But this was rejected by Brother Francis who said he did not allow white boys to flout the rules on crewcuts.

The case of Sanchez Palmer is due to be examined by the governors of St Francis Xavier's College.

Karen Palmer
Karen Palmer accuses the school of racial discrimination

If they refused to reinstate him an appeal would be heard by an independent panel set up by Liverpool council.

And if that found in favour of the school, Mrs Palmer could apply to the High Court to have her son reinstated, claiming the school had breached the Human Rights Act.

Culture

Mrs Palmer said she had brought up her son as a Catholic but that the boy's father wished him to know something about his culture.

She said she had been told before her son started at the school last September that he could have dreadlocks as long as they were tied back.

"If they had told me that he couldn't come to the school with dreadlocks then I would have told them to give his place to somebody else and I will find another school.

"But he doesn't want to go to another school now - his friends are at St Francis," Mrs Palmer said.

head teacher
Brother Francis Patterson says Sanchez must conform with school rules

Brother Francis insisted that Sanchez's exlusion was in keeping with the new version of the government's guidelines issued last summer which he said made it clear that heads could expel pupils for persistent violations of a school's disciplinary code.

"His hair, in my view, having spoken with the parent, is a fashion. I asked for an explanation of the culture and she said the culture was simply the hair," he said.

"Hair can't be a culture on its own, can it?"

But the member of Liverpool City Counciil responsible for education, Paul Clein, took issue with Brother Francis's stance.

"The Department for Education and Employment guidance makes it clear that matters of clothing and hairstyle are not reasons for permanent exclusion and that view has been conveyed to the school," he said.

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See also:

10 May 00 | Education
School exclusions fall
15 Mar 00 | Education
Boy's bleached hair sparks school row
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