A Dunedin high school student feels he has been “denied a piece of my culture” after being told he could no longer wear his hair in cornrows.

A Dunedin high school student feels he has been denied a piece of my culture after being told he could no longer wear his hair in cornrows.
Kings High School student Lewis OMalley-Scott was recently asked to change his hairstyle by the schools rector, Nick McIvor.
The 16-year-old had worn the distinctive hairstyle for more than a year, and the schools sudden policy change angered his family and prompted older sister Orianna to make a heartfelt plea on social media.
We are African American cornrows are part of our culture, she wrote in a Facebook post.
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The 18-year-old told Stuff she was angry her brother was being forced to change his hairstyle because of a racist school policy.
Top schools have been slammed for a “racist” uniform policy. (Video first published in February 2019)
She cited a recent rule change in Parliament over neckties, driven by Maori Party MP Rawiri Waititi who wore hei tiki instead of a tie, as a recent example of an institution changing a seemingly out-dated policy.
She wore box braids for two years while at Otago Girls High School and never had an issue with school authorities.
They were a lot tidier and easier to manager than leaving my hair out.
Both she and her brother worked at McDonalds and their braided style, which could take three hours to complete, was preferred from a health and safety perspective, she said.
Lewis told Stuff the situation at school was upsetting because he was being denied a piece of my culture.
My personal preference is braids because they look tidier, and I am upset that the school wont let me wear them.
Lewis O’Malley-Scott, left, wears his hair in an afro.
In a statement, McIvor said he was aware of the social media post.
Lewis and his parents were invited to discuss the matter with the school last week, so they could reach an understanding.
A number of options were discussed, and it was concluded that Lewis would remove the braids and return to open and unpatterned hair.
This enabled Lewis to fit the school uniform policy while retaining individuality.
McIvor said the policy was about promoting pride in the school, unity and school camaraderie, and a high standard of personal dress.
Our community is highly supportive of our uniform and its use. It is regarded as one of many strengths of Kings and one of its points of difference.
He said the policy was culturally appropriate because it provides good common ground on which students from many different backgrounds can enjoy inclusion and recognition.
In 2019, Stuff named eight schools that specifically had a uniform policy banning afros and braids.
According to the Human Rights Commission, the banning of a hairstyle was not one of the prohibited grounds for discrimination under the Human Rights Act.
However, if schools restricted students from wearing their hair in a way that connected to their cultural, ethnic or religious identity, it could be grounds for discrimination.