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Monday 27 January 2020
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Ministry probes row over St Stephen’s schoolgirl’s hair

This St Stephen's College student's Bantu knots led her to be warned by school officials about her hairstyle. Her mother's complaint against the school is being investigated by the Education Ministry.
This St Stephen's College student's Bantu knots led her to be warned by school officials about her hairstyle. Her mother's complaint against the school is being investigated by the Education Ministry.

The mother of a 15-year-old St Stephen's College student, who had been warned about her natural hairstyles by the school, is grateful their complaint about discrimination is now being addressed.

On Thursday, an official from the Education Ministry contacted Leiselle Morton-Taylor who had reported her daughter was unfairly targeted by school officials for almost two years. A ministry report is to be prepared, and this comes after Minister in the Ministry Dr Lovell Francis said he did not see anything wrong with the schoolgirl's hairstyles.

“The journey has been long, but I did not give up. I have and will always encourage my children to follow the rules, my daughter has not broken any of the school rules as it relates to dress code. She is, and continues to be, an exemplary student,” Morton-Taylor told Newsday on Friday.

The mother of four also expressed heartfelt thanks to all those who have thrown her support behind her daughter – including Facebook’s global chief diversity officer, Trinidadian Maxine Williams.

The schoolgirl has been called to the principal’s office on numerous occasions because of her hairstyles which include Bantu knots, twists and cornrows.

“The response is so overwhelming and I just want to say, thank you so much. This means so much to my little girl. She has been reading the comments and she is so happy to know that there are people out there who are supporting her. We must teach our daughters to remain true to their identities. Thank you to everyone,” said Morton-Taylor.

In a Facebook post, Williams, an attorney, said she was saddened to read about the schoolgirl's struggles.

"From as long as I can remember, my hair has been an "issue" for others. However, at no time was it a factor that impacted my ability to learn and perform in any way,” she wrote.

Others have shared positive messages telling Morton-Taylor to be strong, and some women have even styled their hair in Bantu knots to show their support.

“In the end, I just hope the problem can be addressed and be put to an end. I am getting calls that it is not only happening at schools but at some workplaces, women are being discriminated for choosing to style their natural hair in a particular way. This has to stop. No girl should feel inferior because of how their hair is styled,” said Morton-Taylor.

Attorney Jason Jones, acting on her behalf, on Wednesday sent a pre-action protocol letter to principal Allison Sargeant, and copied the chairman of the Anglican education board and the office of the director of schools supervision. The letter requested putting an end to the adverse comments and disciplinary action against the student or face legal proceedings.

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