A private school in Ohio faces major criticism after parents say the school won’t let their six-year-old attend wearing dreadlocks.
According to Cincinnati Enquirer, Asten Johnson comes from a family that sports dreadlocks long and proud. However, the Zion Temple Christian Academy in Avondale told the Johnsons that the hairstyle is not allowed at the school, according to Asten’s mom, Christina Johnson. This came as a sudden surprise to the family, considering Asten was enrolled in the school last year while wearing dreadlocks, according to his parents.
The family had to make the tough decision to comply with the school rules or to send Asten to another school. They decided on the latter.
“What’s disheartening about Zion Temple is it’s in the middle of a Black community, and it’s a predominantly Black school,” Christina Johnson said. “How can you not accept your own people?”
City Council approved an amendment to Cincinnati’s anti-bias law last year which bans discrimination based on natural hair. However, the law exempts religious groups. A school secretary emailed the dress code rules to Christina Johnson earlier this month and it bans boys from wearing “braids, design cuts or Mohawk hairstyles.”
“Hair must be cut one inch short,” continues the email. The school didn’t respond to requests for comment, according to the Enquirer.
Christina said the school staff told her that her son’s hair goes agains the policy because of its length and style.
The Johnsons’ story is the latest in students being banned from school or graduation because of their hairstyle. Texas high school student DeAndre Arnold made national news when he faced suspension for his dreadlocks. In a rare case, his situation had a bit of a positive outcome, considering he was invited to the Oscars by Gabrielle Union and filmmaker Matthew A. Cherry, the Oscar-winning director of the short film about Black hair called “Hair Love”.
Such incidents have further politicized Black hair, considering cities and states around the country have introduced legislation to ban discrimination based on people’s natural hair.
Cincinnati was the second city in the nation that made it illegal to discriminate against residents’ hair. Last summer, New York and California became the first states to pass similar laws. A campaign for creating anti-discrimination laws for race-based hairstyles, called the Crown Act, has also gained steam.
Christina Johnson reiterated how disheartened she was that Zion Temple, in particular, would discriminate against Asten and his little brother Arrison, who also has dreadlocks at 3 years old but won’t be able to attend the private school.
“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,” she said.
Christina Johnson said she is now enrolling Asten in the Northwest public school district while Arrison will be sent to a babysitter in Avondale. This new arrangement will extend the commute of their dad, Nate Johnson, by nearly 90 minutes per day.
Christina explained that Asten loves to witness his hair growing, saying he wants to look like his parents. When questioned by the Enquirer about how he feels having to leave Zion Temple, Asten raised his forearm to his eyes and held it there before simply saying, “sad.”