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Dreadlocks, hijabs and caning: When parents sue schools

by kenya-tribune
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The case in which a parent on Monday moved to court seeking to compel Olympic High School to admit his daughter to Form One without shaving her dreadlocks has rekindled memories of court battles pitting parents against schools. 

The man said his daughter wears dreadlocks as part of her Rastafarian religion and not as a fashion statement and should therefore not be forced to shave them off.

The minor was sent away on January 10 despite having paid school fees.

A similar cases was filed in the High Court in 2014 by a parent against Rusinga School for having demanded that her six-year-old son shave his dreadlocks.

Judge Mumbi Ngugi dismissed the case, ruling that schools have a right to set rules for the conduct of their students.

She also asserted that the parents had signed the school’s code of conduct agreeing to observe the rules and regulations.

Ngugi also held that the boy failed to convince the court that his culture and religious rights had been denied.

In yet another case, a parent sued a Thika school, three teachers and the TSC last year for caning her son and demanded that the commission develop a clear policy prohibiting caning in schools.

Arguing there is no policy that puts a clear punishment for teachers who cane students, the parent demanded that the court compels the TSC to develop clear policies to save children and punish teachers. 

Another case involved a group of students of St Peter’s Kiwanjani Mixed day Secondary School who sued the management in 2014 for banning girls from wearing hijabs and trousers.

In its ruling, the High Court declined to quash the regulations, holding that students must observe the schools rules regarding uniform.

The ruling outlawing wearing hijabs in school was however later quashed by the Court of Appeal on grounds the Muslim students in the school had a right to practice and manifest their religious beliefs.

A similar case occurred in 2016 where a parent had sued the administration of Bura Girls High school in Taita Taveta county for suspending her daughter for allegedly wearing hijab in school and absconding a school mass. 

The court ruled in the school’s favour, holding that the Board of Management reserve the right to prescribe the uniform that they believe is effective in “securing high and improving school standards”.

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