Fundamentalist Christian school ban six year-old with dreadlocks

Academy in Florida has never allowed any boy to have long hair in class in its 47-year history

Avi Selk
Thursday 16 August 2018 16:55 BST
6 year-old-boy banned from school because of dreadlocks

A six-year-old with dreadlocks was banned from his first day at a private Christian school in Florida because of his hair, igniting a firestorm of criticism.

Clinton Stanley Jr’s father was forced to withdraw his son from A Book’s Christian Academy in Apopka, after the school reportedly said the boy would need to get a haircut before he could attend.

In an eight minute video posted to Facebook, Clinton Stanley Sr can be heard speaking with school officials at the school near Orlando as his son stands outside the door.

“Our son just got told he could not attend the school with his hair,” Mr Stanley says in the video. “If that’s not biased, I don’t know what is.”

The school said the boy wasn’t turned away due to race, and referenced a school policy on dress codes and hair styles.

A Book's Christian Academy has been educating children in the Orlando suburbs since 1971 and at no point in those 47 years has any boy been allowed to have long hair in class, the school's administrator Sue Book told The Washington Post.

“I still have the same rules I always had,” Ms Book said. “The girls wear skirts, the boys wear trousers, hair above their ears and off their collars.”

The school was founded by Ms Book's husband, the Reverend John Butler Book, who the Orlando Sentinel once wrote is “trying to save Central Florida from the same fate as Sodom, both inside his school and out.”

In an old TV sermon that's made its way to YouTube, the fundamentalist reverend reminisces over the days when women wore dresses - before they “began to listen to the fashion artists, many of which were homosexuals, and they began to dress like men.”

Clinton Stanley Sr said he is religious, too. “We believe in God, I believe in the most high, I believe in the Bible,” he said from his home in Apopka, just north of Orlando - the same city where the reverend built his school.

Now a 36-year-old barbecue caterer, Mr Stanley was still a child in the reverend's hey day.

Mr Stanley said his son started asking for dreadlocks when he was four-years-old as his godfather had them.

“When he wants something, he's got to meet his requirements,” Mr Stanley said. “His requirements were he had to learn how to spell. I said, 'You learn these words, you get your hair twisted'.

“He loved it.”

Stanley Jr wore the dreads through kindergarten, and was still in love with them in the summer, when Mr Stanley and his wife decided to switch him to a smaller, more hands-on school.

They got a scholarship through a state program to help with the tuition, and enrolled him in Book Christian which has 48 students and about half a dozen teachers - counting the piano teacher and Sue Book.

Ms Book said the family was given a copy of the parent handbook when they enrolled, which says: “All boys hair must be a tapered cut, off the collar and ears. There are to be no dreads, Mohawks, designs, unnatural colour, or unnatural designs.”

Mr Stanley said he'd never seen the book before Monday, on what was supposed to be Stanley Jr's first day of first grade.

“Or else I'd have never put my son through this embarrassment,” he said.

He said Stanley Jr woke up overexcited that morning. “You're talking about a kid that loves to be around other kids,” he said.

“I tucked his shirt in,” Stanley said. “We went to the door so we could meet the teacher.”

Mr Stanley said that at no point in his son's life had he ever talked to the his son about race.

“We're all one people,” he said. “I always tell him to treat people nice.”

Sue Book said she holds the same philosophy, arguing that the vast majority of her students are black.

Only at the very end of the Facebook video he filmed on his son's first day at school did Mr Stanley show any anger.

“And they're supposed to be Christian!” he said, turning the camera on his own face. “In their book it says God has hair 'like wool'. They're supposed to be Christian! Get the f- out of here.”

Mr Stanley said he never saw any police, but Sue Book said she called the sheriff's office because he kept standing on school property, complaining to other parents.

Hundreds of thousands of people watched Mr Stanley's Facebook video and the school's Facebook page was bombed with bad reviews.

“Obviously, I'm not a racist,” the Reverand Book told NBC-2 WESH on Tuesday. “In our school, our song is: Jesus loves the little children of the world, red and yellow black and white, they are precious in his sight.”

By Wednesday, the story had gone national, and Sue Book had to find a volunteer to teach her class so she could spend the day answering nonstop phone calls.

“They're calling me everything under the sun,” she told The Washington Post.

“I'm getting it from everywhere, all parts of the country. Most of them do not speak intelligently.

"I bear with them until they start using the four-letter words. Then I'll lay the phone down and play Christian music.”

Five sheriff's deputies had to come by on the second day of classes to keep an eye on the place, Sue Book said. She was expecting a protest in front of the school at any moment.

Mr Stanley is now organising a community meeting “to discuss discrimination policies that target black hair and black children in schools.”

And his supporters are trying to start a petition that would pull the Books' state funding unless they change their half-century-old hair policy.

Mr Stanley said he and his wife were able to enrol their son in a public school as soon as they drove away from Book Christian school.

“It's over for him,” Mr Stanley said. “He said, 'Dad. That was just this morning. Why are we still talking about it?'”

“I said, 'It's something that needs to be talked about. Like, you don't understand right now. You'll understand it later.'”

The Washington Post

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