Dunedin high school scolds student for wearing cornrows, principal says its 'too extreme'

Lewis O'Malley-Scott was told to take his braids out (pictured right) because it didn't comply with the school's uniform policy.
Lewis O'Malley-Scott was told to take his braids out (pictured right) because it didn't comply with the school's uniform policy. Photo credit: Supplied

A Dunedin High school student is disappointed after being told he cannot wear cornrows to class. 

Lewis O'Malley-Scott, a year-12 student at King's High School, was told to take his braids out because it didn't comply with its uniform policy.

The 16-year-old has been wearing cornrows for four months when he was told to remove the hair braid. 

"He [the principal] didn't like my hair being in its natural state because it's 'too extreme'," O'Malley-Scott told Newshub.

"He says he wants me to tie it up like a man bun but I'm not able to do that because the bit of the front won't be able to reach.

"I've explained to him it's part of my culture. It's the only practical way I can tie down my hair for work."

O'Malley-Scott's sister Ori shared her concern in a Facebook post on Monday.

"If racism doesn't exist in New Zealand, why can't my brother wear his braids to school?" she wrote.

"If you don't know already, we are African American, cornrows are part of our culture. They are used as a protective style to help promote growth and healthy hair as well as having deep traditional connections to our African roots."

Facebook users were quick to voice their support.

"This is horrifically racist and anyone suggesting it isn't is just plain ignorant," one person commented.

"I think schools' policies need to be updated to keep up with the change. As long as the hair is tidy and not on the collar and not dyed. King's you need to update your policies/keep up," another wrote.

King's High School principal Nick McIver told Newshub this requirement is part of its schools uniform policy.

"The school has a uniform policy to promote pride in the school, unity and is regarded as one of the many strengths of King's and one of its points of difference.

"Last week the student in question was invited to discuss the matter with his parents so we could reach an understanding. A number of options were discussed and it was decided that he would remove the braids and return to open and unpatterned hair. 

"The individual style he achieved enabled him to fit the school uniform policy while retaining his individuality."

But O'Malley-Scott says this is just an unacceptance of culture.

"Apparently you're not allowed mullets but half the school has them anyway," O'Malley-Scott added. 

"So why are we only seeing them target braids?"