Lavona Batts has filed a lawsuit against Immaculate Conception Catholic Academy in Jamaica, Queens New York on Monday, October 28 after her son was told he could not wear braids to school.
According to NBC 4, her son, Jediah Batts, was instructed to ditch his cornrows and was given five days to switch his hairstyle. Watts is now suing the school for violating the New York City and State Human Rights Law and for discrimination. The suit was filed in the Queens Supreme Court.
The incident occurred on September 4, when the boy’s grandmother, identified as Joan, dropped him off for his first day of third grade. When she returned to pick him up, she was greeted by the principal and other unnamed administrators who told her of the school’s hair policy.
Court documents reveal the principal said, “We don’t accept this," while rummaging through the top of Jediah’s head.
The New York Daily News reports the school’s handbook orders male student’s hair must be “neat and trim, no longer than the top of the shirt collar. No designs, Mohawks, ponytail, braids, buns, no hair color.”
Reportedly, Batts attempted to contact the principal, whose name has not been released, when she was told they were “busy.” A staffer, according to Batts, cautioned her that other Catholic schools would adhere to the same policy.
Batts removed her son from the school, before the start of his first full week, enrolling him in a public school without hair restrictions.
“He loves his hair," Batts said. "He feels like it makes him look good, it’s a part of him. He’s a very smart boy. He knows what he wants he’s and not going to let anyone change his mind about anything.
In July, the New York City Commission on Human Rights issued an anti-discrimination guidance allowing New Yorkers the right to "maintain natural hair or hairstyles that are closely associated with their racial, ethnic or cultural identities." The state law specifically prohibits policies that ban traditionally Black hairstyles, including locs, braids and Afros.
Batts is suing to recover enrollment and uniform costs; $275 registration fee and $250 for school uniforms, and emotional damages.