School has been back in session in most areas of the country for less than two weeks now, and while I am thankful that thus far there have been no school shootings (at least none that I’m aware of), I am furious over the blatant discrimination against kids … little kids … by two private parochial schools, one Catholic and one Christian.
CJ Stanley is a six-year-old African-American boy who was happy and eager for his first day of school on August 13th at A Book Christian Academy in Orlando, Florida. Look how happy he looked …But then … the school’s administrator, Sue Book, wiped that smile right off CJ’s little face when she sent him home for having long hair, or more likely for having dreadlocks.
“I still have the same rules I always had. The girls wear skirts, the boys wear trousers, hair above their ears and off their collars.”
The school is very small, only about 50 students and a half-dozen teachers. It was founded by Sue Book’s husband, Reverend John Butler Book, a man who believes a woman’s place is in the home, women should wear dresses, and who once wrote that he is “trying to save Central Florida from the same fate as Sodom, both inside his school and out.” I fail to see what a little boy’s hairstyle has to do with anything relevant to education.
CJ’s father wisely told the school, after a few attempts to reach some form of compromise, to remove his son from their roster, for he will not have anything to do with the school.
Faith Fennidy is an 11-year-old African-American student who attends Christ the King Parish School in Terrytown, Louisiana. Faith’s school resumed on Monday, August 20th, and as was the case with CJ, she was sent home because of her hair style – she wore braided hair extensions.
School officials told Faith on the first day of school that her hairstyle did not align with school policy. So, the next day Faith changed her hair, spending a “considerable amount of money in the process”, but still the school officials were not satisfied, and Faith was told to pack her belongings, leave, and don’t come back. It should be noted that Faith has worn the braids she began school with for the past two years … at the same school … but this year she was told they were “unnatural”.
For the past week or so, my dear friend David and I have been having a conversation about parochial schools and whether they should even exist, whether they do more harm than good. We are both of a like mind that education should be about … well, education … academics. The Constitution calls for what Thomas Jefferson referred to as “a wall of separation between church and state”. The forbearance of religious schools, it seems to me, violates that ‘wall of separation’. In the past, I didn’t think much about religious schools as being a bad thing, for I spent most of my youth attending Catholic schools. But, with the recent evidence of massive abuse of children by priests and others in Catholic schools that has been going on and hidden from the public view for years, and then these cases of blatant racism that would not be tolerated in public schools, I think it may be time to re-think, reconsider the role of parochial schools in the U.S.
These two children did nothing wrong. They were wearing their hair in the manner that many in their culture do. I have heard the arguments on both sides that this was racism bordering on white supremacy, and that it wasn’t racism, but merely “Christian” rules. Whichever it was, it was wrong. It was discrimination. It had absolutely nothing to do with education.
The U.S. education system ranks 15th in the 2018 Global Education Report, below …
- South Korea
- New Zealand
It is time for us to focus on teaching our young people about history, literature, mathematics and science and leave the religious education to the parents and churches, if they so choose. It is time for us to dedicate resources to public schools where children go to gain the foundation for their futures, where they go to learn to think, rather than allocating precious resources to vouchers for parochial schooling. This is not a ‘Christian’ nation, but a secular one where all religions are welcome, but no single religion is favoured over others. I can see absolutely no value to a religious school to begin with, but when they ignore Civil Rights and feel that they have the right to discriminate against children based on no more than a cultural hairstyle, it is time to say, “Enough!!!” Parents: if you don’t like it, then homeschool your children. At least you will only be imposing your beliefs on one child, not an entire school.
Meanwhile, my heart breaks for CJ and Faith who got a first-hand lesson about discrimination at such a young age. Shame on those who taught the lesson.