Civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, are pursuing legal action with the Florida Department of Education after a 6-year-old African American boy wasn't allowed to attend school in Apopka because of his dreadlocks.
Six-year-old Clinton (C.J.) Stanley Jr., was denied entry to the A Book’s Christian Academy in Apopka, Florida, on his first day of school, on Aug. 15, 2018, because of a policy that prohibits hairstyles like dreadlocks and afros.
Today, on behalf of Clinton's family, the ACLU, the ACLU of Florida, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, have filed an administrative complaint, arguing that A Book’s receives public funding, and their hair policy directly violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Despite a YouTube ad for the school showing a white male student with shoulder-length hair, A Book’s student handbook requires boys' hair to be "tapered cut, off the collar and ears," and specifically prohibits boys from wearing "dreads," which the complaint says disproportionately penalizes black students.
"By stigmatizing students of color and preventing them from going to school, hair policies like A Book’s serve only to harm students like C.J.," said LDF Assistant Counsel Angel Harris in a statement. "Florida has a responsibility to ensure that any schools receiving public funding comply with federal civil rights laws. We urge the state Department of Education to take steps necessary to prevent other children from enduring an ordeal similar to C.J.’s."
In a blog post, C.J's father, Clinton, says they were able to afford the tuition with the help of Florida's state scholarship program, and that his son was excited to go to the new school.
"Most students rely on the program to attend A Book’s school, which Book himself has described as '95 percent Black,' said Clinton in the post. "For CJ, first grade was a long-awaited opportunity to make new friends, and so he was on his best behavior. He wore a tie, a backpack, and a crisp shirt that I tucked in right before we went inside to meet the teachers. Unfortunately, that meeting never took place. "