An Ohio boy and his little brother were denied enrollment at a private school because of their dreadlock hairdos, their parents claim.
Christina and Nate Johnson, of Colerain Township, said they learned earlier this month that their 6-year-old son, Asten, would not be allowed to return to Zion Temple Christian Academy in Cincinnati, where he was enrolled last year and wore dreadlocks, the couple told the Cincinnati Enquirer, without noting if he began that year with the hairstyle.
“[Asten] looks in the mirror every single day and tells me how long his hair has grown,” Christina Johnson, who told the outlet she and her hubby sport the same hairstyle, and that her son just wants to look like his parents.
But school officials told the couple earlier this month that its dress code bans boys from wearing long hair or “braids, design cuts or Mohawk hairstyles,” according to the report.
“Hair must be cut one inch short,” an email on the policy read.
The Johnsons ultimately decided to look elsewhere to send their sons to school, as Asten’s 3-year-old brother, Arrison — who also wears dreadlocks — was planning to attend Zion Christian Academy this fall as well, his mother said.
“What’s disheartening about Zion Temple is it’s in the middle of a black community, and it’s a predominantly black school,” she told the newspaper. “How can you not accept your own people?”
A message seeking comment from school officials was not immediately returned Tuesday.
Christina Johnson claims the school’s policy discriminates against black students, citing references to “braids” and designer looks. Lawmakers in Cincinnati approved an amendment last year to the city’s anti-bias law that bans discrimination based on natural hair, although the law exempts religious groups, the Enquirer notes.
“I just don’t understand how you can be an African American facility that promotes kings and queens in the heart of a black community, and then you discriminate against people who look like the community,” Christina Johnson said.
Asten, meanwhile, said he loved his time last year at the school, where he and classmates planted a tree. He had a one-word reply when asked how he felt about not returning, the newspaper reports.
“Sad,” the youngster said.
The 6-year-old will now be enrolled in a public school district, while his younger brother will spend time with a babysitter. The new plan will add about 90 minutes of commuting time to Nate Johnson’s day, he said.
“I’m going to do whatever I need to do for my kids,” he told the newspaper. “It’s just unfortunate because of a hairstyle.”
The boys’ father said his sons won’t be returning to the private school even if officials there ultimately decide rescind its hair policy.
“You’re supposed to be accepting,” Nate Johnson told the Enquirer. “Come as you are.”
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